Friday, September 11, 2009

Cultural differences

This week 3 things happened to me that really made me go 'wow', they were those type of situations where you really feel like you're on another planet. A cultural barrier overcome.

Firstly, on Thursday morning at 8am we had our normal teacher's meeting, all 50 odd teachers at our desks and people saying what they need to say etc. I can't understand a thing so i just look happy and smile and bow when i need to. But this time i knew something was home room teacher (form room) hurried off to the phone and took an important call, everyone carried on but you could tell they were all listening with 1 ear! A student in our class had been knocked off his bike by a truck (he's ok, only a scratch, tough guy) and the teacher told me she was off to sort things out. I was like..."what?", "why" (inside my head). Why would the teacher go?

When i asked her later that day why she had to go she looked at me with a weird expression and said "Because I'm his home room teacher" (with a look of 'why did you ask such a stupid question!!'). Still no closer to an answer. After asking another teacher i got a good explanation. In Japan teachers are responsible for students the moment they leave home, so even though he was on his way TO school, she had to deal with the situation as she was his responsibility!! Imagine if he had died.........!

Secondly, it was an action packed week with school festival (bunkasi, tue-wed) and sports day (unknown Japanese word, Friday). Basically no classes. The students had spent weeks preparing for both of these. Bunkasi is a mixture of shows, dances, performances, food stalls, entertainment, class projects etc. A huge highlight of the school year. My class made a planetarium, another class did a huge domino thing around their room and another built a huge statue made of cans. Along with fashion shows and talent quests it was a fun experience.

Sports day is nothing like in NZ, in fact its more of a games day. The only true sport or athletics are the relay races. But before we could get to the fun and games we had a whole day, 8-4pm, of sports day practise!! Yip a complete run through of the entire day to make sure everyone knew what to do and was doing it properly. When i asked a teacher why they do this he said "There will be many spectators tomorrow and if things do not run well it looks bad for the school so we must practise to ensure we present a good reputation". I get the feeling a lot of things in Japan are done purely for image and how something looks is hugely important.

The real sports day was a blast! Relay races, class skipping (40 people at a time), tug of war, obstacle race, some game where the girls compete against each other to steal hue long poles, class legged race(all legs tied together) and of course this is all after each class marches in with their flag and bows to the principal. Finally the day ended with what was clearly the most popular event. Boys team fighting. There is no other word for it. 3 boys create a pyramid and 1 boy sits at the top, at the whistle they go. Aim of the game is to knock the other person over. All the teachers swarm around to catch falling students or break up fights. I was shocked. All of a sudden we had a brawl going. 100 boys trying to kill each other and it was all in the name of sports day. Amazing. I saw 1 kid get smashed in the face by a beautiful right hander. I was right in the middle of it totally buzzing out, couldn't believe what i was seeing!


fergies said...

Nath, I really enjoyed this entry-fascinating stuff I hadn't heard before-fancy letting those kids fight like that after all those hours of aiming for perfection-the 2 don't sit together do they!D

illahee said...

oh, i can't remember what that's called! basically it represents samurai on horses. last man standing and all that. i think that mainly rural schools in kyushu are the only remaining ones which do it. ugh. wish i could remember what it was called! LOL

(ok, just asked my husband, he says it's 'kibasen'. he didn't do it in school.)

i popped over from jo's blog, hope you don't mind!