Carl / Mass Mail #3

 From: Carl
 To: Family, Friends, & Some in the Hey! Stack

Observations on Living in a Foreign Land for More than Three Months

In order to understand Japanese society, it's important to remember that almost all Japanese people die without having experienced the warmth of a shirt fresh from the dryer.

This is your faithful anthropologist reporting (mass emailing) from the field. I've lived in Japan for more than 3 months as a Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) employed by the Toyama Prefectural Board of Education with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, and these are the sorts of things I have observed:

  • Corn dogs are called American dogs.
  • McDonald's doesn't have a quarter pounder, but does have the "Mc Grand" and a Teriyaki burger. In the early autumn, a "moon viewing burger" is available. It's a burger with a sunny side up egg on it.
  • In Japanese schools, each class ideally begins and ends with one student telling everyone to stand and then bow. This may or may not occur in practice.
  • Fukuoka Senior High School has some Western-style toilets. Takaoka School for the Deaf does not.
  • At the Deaf School, students and teachers eat together in the cafeteria. At Fukuoka, teachers eat "bento" boxes at their desks. (This isn't an "observation," but for the record, I'm against konnyaku [it's gross] and fish with a lot of bones. On the other hand, I'm for tempura and fish without bones.)
  • Japanese people are a lot like old people. To wit, the aforementioned lack of dryers, which results in tenement like lines of clothes hanging from every balcony. Further, though they drive slowly in terms of absolute speed, the narrowness of the streets makes the seem very dangerous. Also, Japanese people aren't afraid to wear their pants high or dye their hair ridiculous colors.
  • In school assemblies, speakers will bow to the center of the stage, whether there's a flag there or not. Also, the national anthem was sung at the Deaf School but not at Fukuoka, even though deaf people should be much worse at singing. (This may be because the Deaf School assembly was a more formal observance of the school's anniversary.)
  • Japanese grocery stores easily have more varieties of tofu than cereal. In fact, they probably have more kinds of tofu than lunch meats suitable for sandwiches. Furthermore, it's cheaper to buy pizza toast than make a sandwich yourself.
  • The current style for Japanese school boys is to wear a T-shirt with lettering that can be seen through their school uniform's button up shirt. The style for girls is to wear socks with a Playboy bunny logo. This has completely replaced the old trend of wearing oversized socks and affixing them with sock glue. Girls also enjoy using an oversized hair clip to put their bangs to one side. While not in use, clips are attached to one's bag.
  • In Japanese classrooms, there's a raised area in front of the blackboards for teachers to stand on. I'm not sure why it's there, but my theory is that it's so even short teachers can be seen by the whole class.
  • Japanese ATMs are turned off at night and get a break on bank holidays. This raises the intriguing question, "Do Japanese people understand the purpose of ATMs?" Future study is clearly called for.

For other observations about Japan, be sure to stay abreast of, now with three pages of photos from Japan. Added recently is a movie made of video clips from my stay so far. If you've been waiting to see people you don't know singing karaoke-- this is your chance! It's also interesting if you're a fan of the fast motion "Cribs"-style shots used in the streets.

Patiently waiting to see if my observations will get me a cushy tenure job somewhere, Loyally,

Carl Johnson, Professional Educator