05 February 2008

Bi-monthly Japanese complaint post

I'm not one of those foreigners who is really down on Japan. There are some things I dislike, but by and large, I accept them as paling in comparison to what I might experience as a foreigner in the States. I think Japanese culture is rich and interesting, Japanese people kind and considerate, and Japanese life fulfilling and peaceful. But sometimes, I go a bit mad with the fixed structures like today, in what has been my worst class this year. We started with the homeroom teacher reading aloud for 20 minutes — this, to a group of terribly out of control kids who don't give a shit about anything and are already demoralized by learning. Luckily, for this portion of the class, I could just watch. Then, I was called up to, again, read outloud and have the kids repeat after me. This, I promised myself, I would not get frustrated with, even though everyone was talking and one kid continued to sleep after the homeroom teacher tried in vain to wake him up. I managed to get frustrated. Yelled at a kid, made everyone stand up. The kicker was when some kid may fun of how I accented his name, and I nearly hit him.

These students have been already given up on. They are in the first year of high school, they are grouped together to stay out of the way of the other kids and then given incredibly inept and boring teachers to further frustrate them. And I would feel much more sympathetic to their cause, but they are all spoiled rich kids whose arrogance is only matched my their ignorance. Unfortunately, I have to see them three more times. Only 14 days of high school left altogether.

I also want to take a swing at the news, which has been reporting for days and days about this gyoza (or dumplings) from China. Apparently, some food from one factory had some pesticide in it and some people in Japan got sick. No one died. A couple of people were hospitalized, but you can be hospitalized for anything here. And still, wall-to-wall news coverage.

This all goes back to my theory about the Japanese obsession with safety and that the most important thing in the life of an average Japanese person is to feel safe. Even if it means relying on an old form of education that doesn't meet the challenges of 2008 or even 1994 for that matter. Even if it means ignoring real problems of safety in the society like mental health issues or an unjust criminal justice system, to wring our hands about the Chinese. No, no, forget all that. Instead, let's all take out our books and listen to Stephen Sensei read page 122 aloud.