Wednesday, March 14, 2007

One thing about living in rural Japan is most people have no idea about anything outside of, for the most part, rural Japan. The people who have been to Tokyo are considered worldly. I’m more well-traveled within Japan than a lot of Japanese people I encounter, because I’ve been to Tokyo and Kyoto and Okinawa. The most banal details about the world beyond tend to render many of my students and co-workers awestruck. Today in the office, I was talking with one of the teachers and Megumi, a recently graduated Junior High School third year. Megumi is a sweet, enthusiastic, and unfortunately not particularly bright girl. I explained to both of them the usual things, like how you can’t ask something like “How’s the weather in America?” because America is huge and there many different climates. The response is a wide-eyed, “Aa, sounanda.” (“[Ah, I see.]”) Also not all Americans are attractive (“Heeeee?”) and not all Americans are white (“Naruhodo!”). Anyway, as Saori entered the room, Megumi bounded toward her and exclaimed, “[I learned so many things about America! They drive on the right side of the road but the driver is on the left side, and most of the streets are straight and they all have names! And they have vending machines in America but not as many, and not everyone has pools, and they don’t eat horse in America but they think Japanese people eat dogs!]”
“[Maybe,]” I interjected.
“[And Cassie-sensei’s older sister kept two ferrets at her house, and after four years, they both ran away!]”
While I found Megu’s delight with these seemingly dull revelations to be charming, some days I just want Japan to have a little cultural awareness. On a more somber note, I’ll be seeing a lot more of Megumi because she failed her entrance exams to get into high school, so she’ll be working part time at the juku. The arrangement was probably some sort of compensation to her family since the juku failed to get her into high school. I hear that one can retake the high school exams the following year, but it’s not common (it is common for the college exams). I hope she does, mainly because coming from my own culturally unaware viewpoint I find it hard to accept that someone living in a wealthy, developed nation would actually be done with their education at fifteen.

By the way, Colin is famous on the internet. Only because Clay is famous on the internet. But they're both nerds. Oh, and in case you get your scruffy white guys confused, Colin is not the one in the hat doing the vlog.


Blogger Clayton said...

I was under the impression that nobody fails that test...

1:48 AM  
Blogger archipelagic said...

I know, I thought that the worst that could happen is you go to a stupid kid school. This is what I took from the whispered conversations while Megu was a safe distance away: She can't go to high school, but she can go to some sort of trade school from 6-9 pm. Last night I had a lesson with a ninensei at Kashima jitsugyokoko (which I thought was one such low-level school for kids who do poorly on tests), and I talked to her about it in Japanese, since she can't communicate in English. She told me she had to pass a test to get into her high school, and that she has friends her own age who don't go to high school. In her Junior High class of 280, 13 students didn't get into high school, and they do part time jobs now. One of her friends who didn't pass works at Trial now. This is everything I've heard, but I want to get more details on it since it seems like one of those complicated things that are easily miscommunicated. I do know that Megu is working part time for us, during the day, when kids are supposed to be in school.

2:12 PM  

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