Nerd competition is appearing also -- in the form of other nations and especially India. The immediate catalyst for some of the Japanese worrying is, as the New York Times article points out, a recent survey of the bedrock disciplines of math and science:
Last month, a national cry of alarm greeted the announcement by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that in a survey of math skills, Japan had fallen from first place in 2000 to 10th place, behind Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. From second in science in 2000, Japan dropped to sixth place.*MM can't resist smiling at the mention of Taiwanese achievement.*
Also, I would like to point out the sheer difficulty of both Japanese and Indian forms of education compared to many programs elsewhere. Do you think your schooling was hard? How about this instead:
India’s more demanding education standards are apparent at the Little Angels Kindergarten, and are its main selling point. Its 2-year-old pupils are taught to count to 20, 3-year-olds are introduced to computers, and 5-year-olds learn to multiply, solve math word problems and write one-page essays in English, tasks most Japanese schools do not teach until at least second grade.What were you doing in school when you were 2, 3, or 5?