Thursday, August 04, 2005
First week in Hamamatsu
So here I am again in Japan, though this time in a place far removed from Tokyo. Though ostensibly in the city of Hamamatsu - population some 800,000 people, rather diverse for a Japanese city as it has a sizeable population of Brazilian and Peruvian workers to man the many local factories - I actually am now living in Enshuhama, which is what the Japanese affectionately (or, in Tokyo, disdainfully) refer to as the inaka, or "countryside." So, rice fields, old women in straw hats. Of course, this still takes place in areas criss-crossed with major roads and lined with vending machines, and I am still only less than a half-hour by bike from the city.
As for the job, I'm working at Hamamatsu Minami Koukou (Hamamatsu South High School), which is one of the better public schools in the area. Though, it is a little misleading at this point to say "working" as school is on break until the first of September, so work consists of me going to the school and sitting at my desk listening to music on my laptop and gossiping with other teachers. My only assignment for this month was to prepare a schedule of classes, which I finished this afternoon. Lesson plans being essentially the same as last year, I don't have much else to occupy my time. Eventually I'll be team-teaching with 7 different teachers, 10 classes a week, basically trying to give these Japanese to the only real speaking practice they'll get in school and perhaps the only real chance to interact with a real honest to God Gaijin on an individual basis. So this program already seems rather futile before I even start. You know a country has problems with diversity and internationalization when they have to enact a draft for foreigners.
Sidenote: A teacher today came down and sat with me while I was having tea. He tried to explain the front page story in the Japanese newspaper (which is, amusingly enough, about the attempt to privatize the Japanese postal system, can you imagine a country where that's front page news?) - rather unsuccessfully, since I could only recognize the words "mail" "company" and "prime minister Koizumi". Afterwards, he told me I looked like the actor from one of his favorite movies, "The Sting." He struggled to remember the name, and for some reason I remembered it was Robert Redford. He got really excited, but almost personally offended when I told him I'd never heard that before. He refused to believe I wasn't told that daily by other Americans.
Anyways, I'll write more later on the exciting topics of Japanese school bureaucracy and my awesome Japanese colleague here who told me today that the vaunted japanese busyness is really just a tool that allows the people in power to limit individual thought and dissent in the populace.