At a neuroscience symposium held in January of this year, a study conducted by Ryuta Kawashima of Tohoku University received a lot of attention. The topic of his five-year study was a learning theory to rejuvenate the brain. Using fMRI and PET, the study examined and analyzed human brain activities and found that “reading aloud” and “simple calculation” helped the entire brain to be very active. According to the study, especially the prefrontal area known to be related with communication, decision-making, understanding other people, etc., is stimulated by reading aloud and conducting simple calculations. Today, we interviewed Kuniaki Miura, the president of Miura Education Center in San Diego, which places emphasis on the brain rejuvenation.
—— Can you tell us about your current activities?
Since we founded the Miura Education Center in June 2004, we've been offering programs focused on the “development of the right brain” and “contributing to the local community.“ In our right brain development program, we offer prenatal/infant classes, Japanese reading (aloud) classes for children who can read at least Hiragana, and abacus & mental calculation classes for children five years old and above. In our effort to contribute to the local community, we support Japanese cultural events, of fer right brain development programs and abacus lessons for senior citizens on a volunteer basis, and sponsor a wood carving class conducted by Master Saburo Koga.
—— Can you tell us how the right brain and the left brain relate to each other?
The right brain is sometimes called “the image brain” and the left brain “the language brain.” The right brain works by using images while the latter does so by using language.
Our growth rate is fastest from the fetal stage through the age of three. In this phase the right brain is very active, and it rapidly processes massive information acquired from its environment. We also communicate with our mother using telepathy since the left (language) brain is yet to be developed. After age three, the left brain becomes fully functional, and we start developing the ability to understand and judge logically. As we get older, the left brain dominates the right, thus most of the time adults mainly use the left brain.
In recent years, neuroscience has advanced rapidly, uncovering many of the long time mysteries of the brain. Thanks to that, we now understand more about its functions.
—— Why is right brain education necessary?
The right brain has four important functions: sympathetic vibration/resonance, imaging, high-speed mass memorization, and high-speed automatic information processing. Among them, the most important function for humans is the sympathetic vibration/resonance, that is, “sympathy.” In recent years, this has become weaker, causing many problems around the world.
Training the right brain can enhance intuition, perfect pitch, computing skills, language learning skills, healing abilities, etc. As a result, you can make your life more prosperous and full of creativity and inspiration. As a matter of fact, humans are born with these great abilities. Thus, the most important objective of our program is to maintain such abilities and to offer a whole brain education to keep the good balance between both hemispheres of the brain, which, I feel, will eventually lead to the world peace.
—— Would you recommend a particular approach to training the right brain?
There are two primary approaches to train the
right brain: image training and achieving the concrete permanent memory.
We practice so called “image training” in which
children use their imaging power to play. This helps enhance their creativity, self-motivation, concentration, and sensitivity. Along with image training, using flashcards also help stimulate the right brain.
To achieve the concrete memory, recitation is most recommended. Reciting passages while the right brain is very active is very easy to do. For recitation, we choose fine lines depicting life-enhancing beauty and moral teachings such as Haiku, poems, and the like. First, you learn through your ears. Once you are able to recite at a normal pace, you speed up. When you are able to hear and recite at double or quadruple speed, then you have acquired the concrete memory.
The key to success is that children and their parents work together. If the parents are enjoying the process, their children will certainly take interest in it.
—— How are memorization ability and comprehension ability related to each other?
In French elementary schools, teachers have lower graders recite works of national literature, such as “La Dernière Classe (The Last Class)” and “La Chevre de Monsieur Seguin (Mr. Seguin’s Goat)” and upper graders recite works of Maupassant. In Germany, parents have their children memorize about 50 stories. Also, Jewish children recite the Bible or the Torah. The significance of memorization is that information that has been retained becomes a strong tool to support the thinking process.
The right brain has the ability to find the law behind the acquired information and freely apply it. In other words, once memorized, the logic will follow along with the development of the left brain which starts around the age three. For example, if a child consistently listens to an English language tape for 10 minutes a day, she will naturally acquire proper English pronunciation. Once it reaches the unconscious level, she will be able to use proper English without having to learn the grammar. Creating a memory circuit by massive memorization without requiring logical understating allows you to transform the quality of the brain.
Rote reading used to be the basis of Japanese education. However, after the war, the focus was shifted to “memorizing with logical understanding.” Yet, we cannot enhance children’s abilities just by having them logically understand things, especially when children who are less competent in understanding tend to fall behind. The truth is, children are experts of “memorizing without logical understanding.” Providing such learning environment will enhance children’s brain qualities and information management skills. Thus, the most effective way to improve comprehension skills is to train the memorizing skills.
—— How is abacus education related to right brain education?
In abacus, you convert numbers into the image
of beads and use the thumb and the index finger
to place them on the actual abacus. This process
requires the interaction between the right and left brains, therefore helps stimulate the whole brain. The most appropriate age to start learning abacus is between four-and-half to six years old. But if children understand the concept of numbers from 1 to 10, they can enter the world of abacus by playing with imaginary beads (numbers). As you grow older, it becomes more challenging to convert numbers into images of beads. Yet, once you have gained this ability, it’s with you forever. Thus, even for adults, mental calculation instant calculation using the images of abacus beads stimulates the right brain and becomes a very effective lifelong tool.
—— How does learning English relate to the brain abilities?
It is said that Japanese native speakers face a "phonetic barrier" while trying to learn English. Once you break through that barrier, you can rapidly enhance your language learning skills. In January 2005, we introduced the Chigasaki English learning method. This method is based upon authentic news materials prepared weekly by a former writer of the NHK International Radio Station. All materials are created along the text, 4000 International English Basic Words. Since we “cannot speak a language that we cannot hear,” we emphasize improving the auditory skills first. We closely monitor the progress, and as students build up their auditory skill, they can then apply the skill into verbalization, reading comprehension, and writing skills. They will not only be able to make simple conversations but soon be able to use English in full-scale. Stimuli to the auditory senses reawaken the hidden abilities, thus changing the quality of the brain.
—— Who has had a great influence on your life?
Since I was young, I’ve been learning “the way of life” through reading many books. When I was in my late 20s, I came across Dr. Murphy’s, Laws of Success. It made me recognize the importance of the subconsciousness and appreciative attitude, and that I am responsible for who I am. In my 40s, I encountered Creating the Value of Life, written by economist Fumihiko Iida. I had been interested in the idea of reincarnation as preached in Buddhism, and while reading this book, I realized for the first time that our souls are eternal and we repeatedly reincarnate.
Also I was deeply moved by the spiritual art of the late designer Sachiko Adachi. Before she completed her mission on the earth at the age of 47 and returned to her mother planet, she created distinguished works that explained the existence of cosmic consciousness and vibrations in the simplest way.
Finally, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to meet Dr. Makoto Shichida, an early childhood education specialist in Japan. My wife, the eldest daughter and I attended a teachers’ workshop for the right brain education at Dr. Shichida’s research institute in Shimane Prefecture, Japan. It became the foundation of our right brain development program at Miura Education Center.
—— Can you tell us about the turning points of your life?
One of the turning points was my failure to pass the university entrance examination due to extreme nervousness. I wasn’t able to sleep the night before and I did poorly on my test. This taught me a lesson: what you can do under pressure is your true ability. After that, I chose to live in the Shimofusa Nakayama dormitory of the Sundai Prep School in Tokyo. There I lived with three other roommates, and led a life like monks under harsh training. It made me unbelievably stronger.
Another came at the end of March 2004, when I ended my 12-year employment assigned to the U.S. by a Japanese company. For a long time, I had been interested in contributing to our society through teaching. Yet, I hadn’t had the courage to do so for financial concerns. As I look back, I feel that the divine cut off the retreat for me, saying, “you can no longer postpone your plan.“ Establishing Miura Education Center in just two months after my retirement led to my belief in some greater power supporting me.
Living in a foreign land means you have to start anew while maintaining your identity. I want to take roots in this new land and fully bloom someday.
—— What is your dream for the future?
I feel deep appreciation for being able to establish Miura Education Center in San Diego and encountering such an excellent educational approach as the right brain development. From this moment forth, I would like to offer a place and opportunities where people of young and old can joyfully gather and share the experience of the right brain development and its learning approach.
As for the abacus program, I want to extend it to
North County and Chula Vista in addition to our current classes in Clairemont Mesa. I also plan to start an abacus class for adults aiming to enhance their brain abilities. Currently, we offer the right brain education and abacus training at Kiku Garden in Chula Vista on a volunteer basis. I plan to extend our volunteer activities as well.
Furthermore, starting this fall, we will introduce a musical section to our program. Through interacting with real instruments such as the violin and piano, we’d like to of fer students opportunities to explore the world of art and enrich their sensitivity.