A Snapshot of Japanese Life
Me: How was your holiday?
Student A: Really boring. I went with my husband.
Me: How long have you been married?
Student A: 35 years.
Me: And how was your week?
Student B: Also boring. My husband was at home.
Me: And how long have you been married?
Student B: Also 35 years.
Me: It's really nice you're come drinking with us tonight.
Student C: Yes, but I cannot drink much. My husband doesn't like it.
(About an hour later)
Student C: I have to go. My husband is at home now.
Student C: I have to get his dinner.
Me: Can't he go to McDonalds or Yoshinoya?
Me: What time do you get up?
Student D: About 5am?
Me: WHAT? Wow! Why?
Student D: To make my husbands breakfast and lunch.
Me: And then what do you do?
Student D: I do washing and housekeeping and then wake up my children.
Me: Okay, so, I'm a daughter, a cousin and a niece. I'm not a mother because I have no children, and I'm not a grandchild because all of my grandparents are dead. What are you?
Student E: I'm a mother, a daughter, a sister and a niece.
Me: And you? [to Student F, who is the 20 year old son of Student E]
Student F: I'm a father....
Student E, at this point goes WHITE and practically stops breathing at the thought that her son has some secret kid somewhere. Student F eventually realised what he said. It took a bit of time though.
Me: And what did you think of England?
Student F: There were too many halves.
Student F: Halves.
Student F: The food had too many halves.
Student F: Halves.
Me: How do you write 'halves'
Student F: H.A.L.V.E.S.
Me: Can you find it for me?
[student finds it eventually]
Me: OH. HERBS. Okay. Gotchya! [GAH!]
Me: So, [as you're studying Spanish at university] are you going to visit Spain?
Student G: No. I don't think so. My mother says it's too dangerous.
Now, this is a pretty typical response to a lot of places from students that I teach. Once upon a time, this was maybe a relatively safe country. Or not. Depending on who you were. Now however there seems to be an increasing number of serious crimes going down here: child abductions, children murdering, gun crimes, molesting, etc. And yet this seems to be overlooked so often by the Japanese I have contact with. I wonder when they'll face the reality that Japan isn't such a safe haven as they'd have you believe.
Of course, as a Londoner living in Tokyo, I have to say it certainly FEELS safe. I have never felt scared or uncomfortable alone in the streets at night time here. That's not to say that I often felt uncomfortable or nervous elsewhere, but it has happened from time to time. Likewise, I'll happily leave my phone and wallet on a restaurant table while going to a drinks bar or the toilet. In London, even while sitting at the table eating they'd be well hidden out of sight, in a bag, wrapped around my leg or chair.
In the last couple of years there's been a few brutal stories - kids pushing each other out of windows because they were 'ignored by a classmate' or 'looked at funny', or parents being knived for putting kids under too much pressure.
There's also been a few shootings of late.
Here's a delightful story about a boy who walked into a police station with his mothers head in a bag and another one about a 3-year old that was dumped into a 'baby hatch' by its father, still, if it stops things like the death of this baby who was left in a motorbike baggage hold while its parents gambled, then I guess it's not such a bad thing.
Of course, stress is a MASSIVE problem in Japan from school age kids upwards, so I suppose that the crime and idiocy increase isn't really so surprising, isn't it?
At least all this stops people worrying about 'The Big One', doesn't it? (earthquake)
On another note, my nicety of the week came from a student in a group I've just recently taken over. She walked into my class and the first thing she said was that T - another student who'd just left because of work commitments - had phoned her to say she really liked my classes and was trying to change her work schedule so she could come back to them. Not bad, eh?!