Tuesday, February 8, 2000: The Scolding
I wish you guys could see a Japanese scolding. It's quite interesting, really. I think it's probably the same around the world, but here it takes on a distinctively cultural aspect. The student's head always seems to be at the same angle of inclination. The teachers voice is almost always at the same volume at the same tone (usually shouting). The student says nothing and the teacher asks many, what seem to be, rhetorical questions. You can almost understand what they're saying.
Today, though, the scolding I saw was a bit different. Five boys were lined up and scolded. Big, around six feet tall, third grade boys. Scolded in turn by a female teacher, followed by a male teacher (both substantially shorter than the students), then taken into the back room (kindof like a storage closet). Just before the door was closed I saw the male teacher beginning to slap one boy across the face repeatedly!! I couldn't believe it. I assume he just went down the line, because I heard slaps for a while. After they all came out, slightly abashed, the male teacher yelled at them again then they went back to class.
I asked Mr. Yamada what they did and he said they were eating lunch early. Whoa. Considering how much nonsense goes on at this school I'd have thought that getting kids to stop eating lunch early would be pretty low on the list, but apparently not. They were so harsh. And slapping the students like that?? Damn.
Wednesday, February 9, 2000: Mr. Yamada's Secret
Mr. Yamada is a slightly eccentric fellow. Most of the other teachers don't really talk to him.. not that he's not nice, he's a great guy, but he's kind of quiet. He wears jeans to school every day while most others wear slacks or skirts. He never has a traditional Japanese bento. He sometimes misses the morning meetings. Perhaps the most peculiar thing about him is that he speaks perfect American English and keeps this a secret from everyone. He lived in the States for three or four years a while back (I'm not sure doing what). Now he teaches social studies despite the fact that he speaks better English than any of the Japanese teachers of English I know.
Everyone has secrets. This one he kept from me for an entire year. He still won't speak English when anyone is in earshot, though, which means that we can't talk during school hours. It's kind of sad, really, because I'd love to talk to this guy, but can't because for whatever reason he thinks he needs to keep it a secret from everyone. Maybe he thinks that if he talks to me where people can see they'd think he was boasting. Or maybe it's something a little more subtle than that.
Monday, February 14, 2000: Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day in Japan is completely different than in the States. Here they've split Valentine's Day into two days, a two-parter, a cliffhanger. Valentine's Day is the first part. On the big V-day women buy chocolates for the men in their lives. Employers, friends, boyfriends, whatever. The chocolates come in all shapes and sizes (quite literally. I've seen many phallus-shaped and breast-shaped chocolates). If you have a business-type of relationship and get chocolates from a woman, then it don't mean nothin. But if you don't have a business-type relationship and you get some nice chocolates or a small cake...
The second part of this holiday is "White Day". "White Day" is on March 14 and was invented by a chocolate company with the intent of boosting business, which was a huge success, apparently. On this day, men give the women chocolates or small cakes. If they got chocolates from a woman, but don't give chocolates or cakes back on "White Day"... well, you can figure out what that means. Here, the pressure is taken off of the men by making the women make the first "move". And the chocolate companies get a double-header. It's very highly commercialized real low on romance. I talked about V-day in a couple of my classes and what many American couples do on the big day. It was really bizarre for a lot of the students to hear that.
I got chocolates from some of my students and chocolates and a cake from one of my Japanese friends yesterday.