Monday, March 13, 2000: "When 'Thank You' is Bad"
My first day at Towa JHS. I ditched the morning meeting, opting to stand outside and greet the kids on their way in. When I finally got settled in the teachers' room I learned two things. The first was that there was some trouble at another local JHS (Nisshin JHS). Two days before graduation, some of the graduates decided to start the party early by breaking exactly 240 windows in the school (probably every single window they have). I'm not sure how they knew it was graduates, but that was the news. Also, a bit of "trouble" at Towa... first thing today there was this big assembly in the gym to talk to the students about it. Apparently at the graduation ceremony a handful of the more troublemaking students got up on the stage and unfurled a banner they had made and it said:
"Towa Arigatou!" (Towa, Thank You!!")
Now this is "bad" because not all the students were included.. it was only one student and his close friends. In Japan, everything has to be done together, equally, or not at all. When a teacher told me what they did I was really confused as to why it was bad. She had to explain it to me.
My schedule is really light for the next couple of weeks... only 9 classes for 10 days. Piece of cake!
Last time I was here I taught a couple girls a few Spanish phrases. I saw them this morning and they didn't remember "hola", but they remembered some of the other words I taught them. That made my day! I actually taught somebody something that they remembered!!
Tuesday, March 14, 2000: Japanese Discrimination
Every month the ALTs of Wakayama City have to write these letters for the Japanese teachers of English. Just a monthly update on how we're doing and cultural info about our countries of origin. I wrote mine about 'burakumin'. I faxed it to him today. The Japanese loathe this word and will never discuss it; that's the problem. I hope he doesn't give me any grief about it. If he refuses to publish it, I won't write another one. That's the only topic I feel like writing about.
Thursday, March 16, 2000: CENSORED!
When my supervisor, Mr. Tsuyama, called me yesterday and said he wanted to talk to me today I knew what was going to go down. Not feeling too well, I rode the couple miles to city hall and ended up talking to him for about an hour about how the Japanese are trying to rid the country of this problem... only thing is is that they're not doing it well enough. No one can talk about it, it's a complete taboo, and the children who are being mocked in the schools are completely unable to handle it because they are never taught how. He understood, and he said I was right about everything, but he couldn't publish my letter.
"So... in connection with your English letters... please... as much as possible avoid...political topics. Is that all right?"
I feel shut down and censored. It sucks because I really wanted all my teachers at the other school to read that and see that I wasn't unable to express my displeasure at their silence to everyone. I told them that at that school, but this is a common problem at every school. Must preserve the "Wa", the Harmony. I'm glad that he didn't ask me to write another one, I'd have gotten ticked off. I can understand how he doesn't want me writing political stuff, but I wrote about that because it directly affected my teaching at the last school.
He had a lot of questions for me, but more than anything, he wanted to know how I knew so much about the problem. He was shocked at how much I knew. He told me that he doubted any Japanese person would have told me so much (and indeed they wouldn't have). I got most of the stuff I wrote about from just talking to other JETs and the internet. I showed him how easy it is to get information about Japanese discrimination from the internet. He was amazed. He was also very surprised to hear that Amnesty International is starting to take an interest in this problem, too. I know that all countries have discrimination in one form or another and Japan's discrimination is a little more complex (or just different), but the fact that they don't talk about it only makes it 10X worse.
As I left city hall it started to rain. I looked around, but the skies were clear and it was almost sunny. Then I looked up and there it was. A lone black cloud was directly over my head. (I kid you not) I needed to go to the electronic store to pick up some stuff before I headed home and I was hoping I could get out from underneath it before I got wet. It followed me all the way home.
Friday, March 17, 2000: St. Patrick's Day
For St. Patrick's Day I made scones for the teachers. They came out pretty good actually, if I do say so myself. They were really surprised that I could make anything at all and asked for the recipe. When they asked me what the holiday was all about, my memory completely failed me. I remembered something about St. Pat and a lot of snakes, but that was about it. And I certainly couldn't say how it came to be a holiday about green cookies and beer. Who knows how or why holidays change? So many of our holidays have changed meaning or substance over the years. Many Japanese holidays have changed, too.
I discovered today that someone has put a link to my journal on her homepage, but she called my journal, "A Journal of Japan, by a Japanese Guy". Exqueeze me?? It's right next to a link to Alexa Sharp's Journal so that's cool that I'm in the same category, but, come on! "A Japanese Guy"?? There's not even an email link on the page so I can't email her to fix it!