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Unworthy Of Your Seppuku February 19, 2008

Posted by Mitch in General, Life in Japan, Random.
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I really cannot believe that it’s a week since I last wrote. I keep resolving to write more, but I normally only have things to say the day after I’ve written a post and so therefore do not want to inundate you with the goings on of my fairly dull life!

This weekend saw my Sex Party. It wasn’t an orgy (at all, actually, seeing as it was my worst attended party so far), but the theme was sex. People basically interpreted the theme as they wished and so, on Saturday night, Kuga was descended upon by a horde of overage Japanese school girls, two hookers, a Junior High School student and a sperm. I’ve got to say, the fact that a whole lot of English teachers in Japan came as imitations of their kids is kind of scary. I myself came as a sperm, complete with egg and detachable tail. I think I won the prize for most inventive (and biologically correct, although, with regards to size, my egg was seriously lacking). Lots of alcohol was imbibed and the following day it was necessary to go and eat a whole lot of Indian food to abate the hangovers.

This week I’m at the good elementary school. Yesterday, however, wasn’t so good. My first class was my 4th graders. Stupidly, the school decided not to split the year into two classes as they normally do, but instead, there’s one class of 41 students. Therefore, there are very few lessons I can give to that class that go according to plan. The following class was a recalcitrant 5th grade class and by that point in the day, I couldn’t be arsed.

Today is going much better. I’ve just had two 2nd grade classes and they outshone yesterdays no end. They’re just so absorbent, and even if they can only manage katakana English (uwatto izu yua nemu?) they’re so willing to learn and give it a shot. When I asked one girl a question, I noticed right away the tell tale signs that she was about to cry. A lot of my kids cry – sometimes because of me and other times just because they’re kids. But this girl was going to cry because she didn’t understand how to answer my question, despite the fact that the teacher had done a pretty good job of translating the point I was teaching. So I moved on, because I didn’t want her to cry and told the teacher that I would come back to her at the end. So she cried. Because I didn’t give her the chance to try. Even though she was going to cry because all eyes were on her. I basically can’t win with students like that, so after a bout of asking the other kids questions, so she could see how they were answering and get the general gist, I went back to her. But she showed herself up once again, by proving that she hadn’t been listening to the other kids and so was still unable to answer my (rather easy, if I do say so myself) question. So she cried. Again.

The rest of the class went well, and the kids go absolutely batshit for the stamps I give out as prizes. I’m really not above bribing my kids to try. And they’re apparently not above accepting said bribes.

I’ve just come back from my class with the first graders who missed their lesson last month. The thing with that class is, they’re all ultra-sweet, but there are two boys with behavioural difficulties and so I never know how the class is going to be. Most times, they’re great and they do everything I ask of them. Other times, the two boys run around the class, kicking their teachers and screaming at the top of their voices. Needless to say, lessons that involve that never go to plan. But today there was very little screaming a no kicking. One of them tried to show affection by punching me in the balls, but that’s par for the course with young kids, I’ve found. Either that or they just hate my crotch region and want it to suffer.

Other than that, there’s not much to report. I’ve now finished all the chick lit I bought in Kyoto (4 Marian Keyes novels and PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern). Now Marian Keyes writes trash, but it’s enjoyable, well-written trash that keeps you guessing. Cecelia Ahern falls shamefully short of this yardstick. Her novel is, in a word, awful. It’s contrived and it reads like a GCSE creative writing project. The only thing worse than this novel, is the film of it. Any charm that the novel may have possessed is wiped out, stamped on and thrown in a furnace. The novel is set in Ireland. Everyone is Irish. The film is set in New York. Everyone bar the ill-fated husband is American. Why they chose Gerard Butler to play the Irish dude when he is, in fact, Scottish, is beyond me. I’m thinking his physique probably had something to do with it. In the novel, Holly’s family is supportive and there for her and a whole unit. In the film, Holly’s father disappeared on the family, thus blowing apart the whole family unit which, in the novel, feature in many subplots. The new love interest, Daniel, is played by Harry Connick Jr. I’ve got to say, I don’t remember the character being as idiotic or bumbling as the film portrays him as. So, in short, avoid the book and go to any lengths possible to not see the film.

I’ve now started on some Japanese literature. The book is called Forbidden Colours and it’s by Yukio Mishima. Mishima is quite a famous Japanese author and has been compared to the likes of Sartre and Proust. However, he is perhaps more famous for his death than his writings. He was a prolific writer who gradually became a fanatic follower of imperialism, denouncing Emperor Hirohito at the end of the war for renouncing his claim to divinity. At the age of 41, he tried to stage a military coup that failed miserably. He then committed seppuku. Seppuku is an ancient samurai act that supposedly protects ones own and ones family’s honour. It’s a form of suicide (the less formal term for seppuku is hara-kiri, often bastardised as ‘hari-kari’) that involves a person slicing open their own stomach. This in itself is a ridiculously painful way to die and so a second is normally nominated to slice off the dying man’s head. The true act should not see the head totally separated from the body, but the head should remain partly connected at the front. This was, apparently, to stop the head flying off at people that were invited to watch and confirm the act took place. Lots of times, samurai who were loyal to a defeated leader were commanded to commit seppuku. It has also been used as a form of capital punishment.

There was also a female form that is known as jigai. The woman would tie her legs together at the ankles so she could retain a feminine pose, even in death (as in, despite the death throes), and slit her throat. Quite often this was done when a town was invaded to prevent the woman being raped.

Kind of morbid, but so fascinating. No one here seems to want to talk about it, but occasionally I won’t take no for an answer and they are actually quite proud of the people who’s loyalty was so strong that they would give the ultimate to prove it.

Back to Mishima – his seppuku didn’t go quite to plan and the severing of the head went horribly wrong and after two attempts to behead him, someone else had to step in and finish the job. This man is now a Shinto priest somewhere on the Japanese island of Shikoku.

Following that, I think I better sign off!

Till next time!

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