Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Musings on Japan#1: First Impressions

There I was, a fresh-faced, wide-eyed boy from the south of Australia, suddenly standing in the land of ninjas, high quality mass produced consumables and Godzilla.

From my dead end job in London, I made the decision to travel back to the other side of the World in the quest for wealth, experiences, some cultural stuff ... and maybe even a little cuddle.

So, with no real skill set to fall back on, I decided to teach the Queen’s English in Japan.

This required me to do a CELTA course, which instantly turned me into an educationalist capable of nurturing the minds and boosting the spirits of all the people of the world who have not yet had the enlightening torch of English pointed towards the receptive recesses of their mind. All this in one extensive and expensive month.

I soon realised that the job was not as good as I hoped for. But, not nearly as bad as I expected.

I hoped to end my London rut and get myself on a better wicket. Instead of being on a better wicket, I ended up fielding around the boundary. Because I wasn't actually in Tokyo to start with (I later moved to Akabane, which is on the cusp of Tokyo), but in a prefecture just north called Saitama. Well, I wasn't actually in Saitama either. I was where the arse end of Tokyo rubs up aggressively, and not at all seductively, with the arse end of Saitama: Koshigaya.

Hip Tokyoites actually have an insult to those they consider uncool: “dasai”, which is short for “Datte Saitama no” which translates to “But that’s from Saitama (therefore it is boring/crap/backwards)”. This gives you an insight into just how dull this place is.

At the start, I taught at 5 different schools: Takenotsuka (Saturday), Soka (Monday), Akabane (Tuesday), Kawaguchi (Wednesday), Warabi (Thursday) and wherever my Overlords wanted to place me on my "days-off".

Takenotsuka is a crappy looking council estate town. It used to be a Yakusa city, hence all the "Lady's Clubs" and "Pubs", which are synonymous with the naughtier side of life.

I also taught at Akabane, a notorious red-light district famed for one particular street that is bursting with Thai Lady Boys.

The other schools were so non-descript that I can think of nothing either witty nor damning to say about them.

The hours were often quite silly - my students will never get much Present Perfect out of a bleary eyed yawning Mike whose Past Simple involved 5 hours of “Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes” with screaming children (or the spawn of Beelzebub). I apologize for the lame grammar joke.

Talking of demon spawn. There is a sport amongst Japanese children called “kancho”, which roughly translates to stick your finger up teachers arse. Believe me, after you have experienced this a few times you never turn your back on some angelic looking child in a sailor's outfit.

Uniforms run rampant over there. Even parking attendants are decked out like Napoleon. They also have these great big pink truncheons always at hand. They light up to an eye-achingly lurid neon pink to beckon the seemingly blind drivers to a car's resting place.

On a linguistic note, I did find my favourite Japanese word: “hanamizu”. “Hana” means nose, and “mizu” means water: nose water. Or, as we say, snot!

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