|THE DAY IN A NUTSHELL:USA: November 11, 2003: Tuesday
Japan: November 12, 2003: Wednesday
- Went to Patricia’s school, helped teach five classes.
- Got a ride home with one of the English teachers.
- Experienced an earthquake.
- Went to Kawagoe with Patricia while Mom stayed home to rest.
- Shopped at Loft.
- Had conveyor belt sushi (kaitenzushi).
- Went to an izakaya, met Patricia’s friend Michelle.
- Went to karaoke with Patricia and Michelle.
Today was the day we had to go to Patricia’s school, to her job teaching English. We were to be interviewed by the students in five classes. I wore my hair looped up in little braids, and when we got to the school (by taxi) we had to wear special guest slippers that were far too large for us, so we shuffled to each class.
The children wear uniforms,
of course, but there is
a lot of restriction on
how they can wear their
hair as well. Black and
clear rubber bands are okay,
but no other ornamentation.
However, any shape
is allowed, and that’s why
I wore unique loopy braids.
My sister has a desk in the teacher’s lounge, but children are allowed to come in and talk to her. She gives points to kids for talking to her in English, so sometimes they come in to do that or just to see her. Before any classes started, I got to talk to a wonderful student named Yuka, who has been practicing English since she was very young and speaks very well. Talking to her was probably my favorite part of the school day, actually, and I got to talk to her between almost every class.
Joking with Japanese students
Each class was more or less the same. First we were introduced (my sister emphasized that I was her older
sister, and they seemed confused by that), and we said a few things about ourselves, and the rules of question-asking were explained; then we were asked questions by the students.
In Japan, birth order is
more important than in the
U.S. My being Patricia’s
OLDER sister carried a lot
more weight than just the usual
sibling relations. “Older
sister” is even said with
a different suffix in
Japanese than when you refer
to your “younger sister.”
They had been given a sheet to ask us from if they didn’t know what to ask, and everything had to be done entirely in English. My sister gave them points if everyone at their table had asked a question. We actually got some rather odd questions along with the usual ones, but that is to be expected since we were dealing with third-years (about fourteen years old or so).
|Some questions (and their answers, if they’re amusing):
- Q: “Do you have a boyfriend?”
- Q: “What kind of men do you like?”
A: (Mom) “Tall, dark, and handsome!”
Q: “Is your husband tall and handsome?”
A: “Tall, yes. Handsome? Ehh, so-so.”
- Q: “Are you Christian?”
- Q: “Can you eat natto?”
- Q: “How long is your hair?”
(I answered by unraveling my braids and having my family members
hold the braids out from my head. This provoked much amazement
from the crowd.)
- Q: “How old are you?”
A: (Mom) “Older than dirt.”
- Q: “What do you want to do in Japan?”
A: (Mom) “I want to experience an earthquake.”
- Q: “What is Florida famous for?”
A: (Me) “Disney World, oranges. . . . ”
(Mom) ” . . . And OLD PEOPLE.”
“Natto” is a type of
fermented bean that most
foreigners don’t like and
find repulsive. It is
stringy and smells like
feet (though I wouldn’t
have thought to say that).
Much of the population of
Japan also does not like
natto, but they seem to find
it funny to ask foreigners
if they “can” eat natto, as
if they’re wondering if it
is physically possible.
Interestingly enough, one of the teachers had asked a couple students to prepare for us an introduction to Japanese culture. They drew pictures for us and one of the set of students let us keep theirs. The pictures taught us about not wearing shoes in the house, not using soap in the tub, and using a futon instead of a bed.
In between the classes we usually went back to the teachers’ lounge to sit and relax, and then we were supposed to have lunch in there but some other class snagged us and asked us to sit with them, so we did that instead; they even gave us free school lunches even though we’d brought our own.
Japanese schools eat their
lunches in the classroom,
they don’t have a cafeteria.
They push their desks into
rows and hand out the food.
At this school, they also
did a rock-paper-scissors game
at the end to see who had to
help clean up.
Japanese school lunch
At the end of the day we hung out in the teachers’ lounge talking to some students for a while, waiting for one of the teachers because she’d offered us a ride home (sparing us cab fare). On the way out we met the special ed teacher and she tried to guess my age, coming up with “sixteen.” Sure. We got our ride home and hung out at the apartment for a little while talking about the day.
Relationships between the
teachers in Japan aren’t
much like the ones here.
Teachers actually go out
drinking together, and
since alcohol is involved
they tend to have more
than just professional
relationships and know
more personal details about
each other than in the U.S.
My mother was not ready for what my sister had next on our platter: A trip to Kawagoe, a special sushi restaurant, a drop-in at an izakaya for snacks and drinks, and a bout of karaoke with her friend Michelle. She decided she’d rather stay home and relax instead of going out, so Patricia and I made to leave the house. It was then that the ground started shaking; it was a mild earthquake, my mom got her wish.
We took the train out to Kawagoe and had some great shopping. Unfortunately, it was already pretty late, and stuff was starting to close. We managed to check out a few other hundred yen places, a place that had some funny shirts, and the Loft department store, where there was everything you could dream of, toys and clothes and candy and stationery . . . dream come true, but a nightmare if you have no money. I found a gumball machine that sold little Tarepandas.
We decided to go to the conveyor belt sushi restaurant (which is called “kaitenzushi” or “kaiten sushi”) so I could see what it was like. I’m not historically a sushi person (since, well, I don’t eat fish, actually neither does my sister), but there were four things I tried. Kappa-maki
was not one of my favorites (cucumber roll), but it wasn’t horrible. I already knew I liked tamago
(the egg sushi), so I got one of those, and I also ate a natto
roll (the bean one, called natto-maki
) and found it to be fantastic! Yes, I can eat natto
! Lastly I tried inari
, a sort of battered and fried cold thing with rice inside, and it wasn’t very good in my opinion. My sister said that what we’d ordered today was probably the least amount of food she’d ever ordered in one of those places.
usually have lots of different
sushi rolls on plates that
rotate around the bar. You
can grab whatever you want,
and be charged by how many
plates you racked up. You can
also order special items, but
it is possible to go to one
of these places and never speak
to an employee. Even the drink
(green tea) is in a distributor
that’s already at the table.
Patricia was still a tad hungry so we headed back to her neighborhood to do izakaya
, or so we thought. We called my mom a couple times to see if she would join us, but she wasn’t answering, so we got worried and headed toward home. We ran into her in the street and it turned out she’d gotten lost on the way back from the convenience store. It sounded like a scary experience, especially since the street signs were in another language and it was tough to ask directions from people who don’t speak English. Long story short, she didn’t want to go out again and stayed home while we went to meet Patricia’s friend. She also hurt her foot during the walking around, so the next couple days she had to walk around with a swollen ankle.
Off we went to Shiroki-ya, apparently my sister’s favorite izakaya. It’s a Denny’s-ish place that has a picture menu (for us goofy illiterate foreigners), and many dishes are pseudo-American, plus there are many alcoholic drinks. Patricia’s close friend Michelle was there waiting for us, having already ordered a drink whose name was “Sexy.” It was bright pink. It had companion specials on the menu entitled “Recharge” (yellow) and “Fruity” (green). I got “Fruity” and Patricia got “Recharge.” It wasn’t that good but then I’m not an alcohol fan.
I had a good time meeting Michelle and eating potato-cheese mochi (sort of biscuity thing with cheese in the middle), but then due to a combination of exhaustion and alcohol I fell asleep on the table. Whenever they felt like waking me up, I bounced back and we went to karaoke for two and a half hours! It was a more run-down place than the others, but still quite fun, and I enjoyed watching Michelle and Patricia put songs in for each other as well as choosing them for myself. I was definitely ready for bed by the time we got back to her place, though.