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I Should Tell You…Part II September 21, 2007

Posted by Mitch in Life in Japan.

Right – time for another instalment of my attempt to blow apart the western view of Japan. Or, just ruin the reputation of what is actually a noble country.

1. Lunchtimes at school are almost always accompanied by music. The other day I was treated to the dulcet tones of Silent Night and other assorted Christian Christmas Carols. Not only is this surprising because it isn’t Christmas, but Japan doesn’t even celebrate the holiday! At Junior High School, they have a more eclectic range. On one of my first days eating there, Gracie Fields sang whilst we tried to keep down the swill placed in front of us. The other day Enrique’s Hero made an appearance and today I was humming along with “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”

2. Lunchtimes are interesting. In a salad, what I had initially thought were beansprouts turned out to be smoked baby eels. I’m looking into cancelling lunches at that school.

3. A lot of schools have special rooms where teachers can go for a sleep. As far as I know, no such room exists at any of my schools. Therefore I just have to make do with my desk. That said, sleeping in public isn’t as frowned upon as it is in England. Kids quite often fall asleep at their desks (not just because I’m boring, lots of other JETs have had the same experience) and I’ve noticed teachers nodding off during long, boring meetings.

4. Students aren’t disciplined. You can’t give a kid detention or suspend them. There was one case where a girl came to school, slaughtered a teacher and some other kids and after her borstal stint was over, she had to be accepted back into the school she had torn apart. Where they get their respect for authority and politeness from is beyond me. That said, it’s the same in Germany. Discipline in schools isn’t really ‘practiced’ as such, and yet they have this ingrained reverence of those above them. Maybe we’re doing it wrong in Britain…

5. Touching is fine. It may just be me being a British prude, but there is a lot of bodily contact between teachers and pupils. Teachers think nothing of smacking a kid round the head (I realise that I’ve just written about discipline and how it is non-existent- generally these actions tend to be more in jest or as guiding hands rather than an actual wallop intended to make a misbehaving child better). Kids think nothing of groping teachers. They also think nothing of congregating in a big group around the unsuspecting foreigner at school and each copping a feel of his bum. I am also constantly barraged with questions about if I ‘like’ the students. Now, apart from the fact that I hardly know them, it just feels a bit paedophilic to say “Yes, I do”.

Right – that’s enough for this instalment. More later! Till next time



1. Wendy - September 25, 2007

Glad to see that ‘copping a feel’ of your teacher is widespread and that Japanese kids aim to make you welcome! On food, I reiterate what I said – a Christmas hamper will have to wing its way to you, hopefully not making you homesick for British grub!

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