Friday, September 13, 2019

A Street Beggar in Yokohama

I met a friend of mine in Yokohama. We had lunch and were walking toward Yokohama train station. As we were approaching a bridge, I saw a young man sitting on the pavement with his head deep over the chest. I first thought he was sick, and then there was an empty can in front of him. He was begging for money.

It was in the spring of 2019.

Some homeless people live on the bank of a river in Tokyo. You will see their tents as the train goes over the river. You often wonder what they eat. Do they catch fish in the river? Do they bathe in the river? You must designate the same spot for the bathroom. But it was my first time to see a homeless openly begging for money in broad daylight.

I wondered if Prime Minister Abe knew it.

Decades ago, Yokohama had some homeless people with empty cans in front of them. Near Sakuragicho train station, they were sitting on the streets. They were former soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Among them was a one-legged man in a soldier's uniform, who stood with the help of a walking stick. A few years after World War II, they did not have money or home.

But it was in the early 1950s when Japan was recovering from the ruins of World War II. Is the country still suffering now like it was 70 years ago?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

He came to the class earlier than anyone else.

He came to the class earlier than anyone else yesterday. I said to him, "You're early today." He said, "Yes," and smiled. This simple conversation was a success for him because he used to say nothing. When he was in the class, he kept looking at the desk and said nothing unless I happened to talk to him. 

He broke the ice for the first time when I complimented on his look. He was indeed a handsome man. The second occasion that melted his ice was when he said he liked a fashion model from the United States. I did not know about her. I promised him that I would study her. He was happy to hear it because his English teacher showed some interest in what he said. And today, his teacher made a comment about his early arrival. 

Now, he is not a child but an adult in his mid-20s. How would you describe him? Is he childish? Yes, he is. But because he is one of many Japanese young men and women who act like him. I should look at his case as someone who lives in oppression. Three months ago, he had no confidence in English. Because of this, he may have had an inferior complex. Therefore, he always stayed low keyed and hid behind his classmates. He has gradually changed and gone out of his private cocoon, which is nice. 

The job of an English teacher is more than teaching the language but also to break the barrier of a defensive mindset.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Chatty vs. Non Chatty Students

A student of mine told me yesterday that the classroom was cold. Yes, it was. But his intention was not to complain about the room temperature but to chat with me. Yes, it would take a Japanese person two months to relax and chat with his English instructor. 

In another class with non-Japanese persons, I had the opposite experience. The ice melted in 30 minutes.  My students talked nonstop until the end of the class. 

The next day, I received a complaint: the students did not learn much. 

Now, my question is, "Which is better between Japanese people who would wait two months to know that it is OK to relax and chat with their English instructor or non-Japanese people who would chat from the beginning and learn little?"

My answer is first.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Japanese Babies Smile and Look the Other Way

I was on the subway today. Near me was a Japanese family: father, mother, and their baby daughter in her baby carriage.

I smiled at the baby as she looked at me. She was first surprised to see a total stranger smiling at her. She then smiled at me. I smiled at her. I continued smiling at her. She could have been annoyed by me and looked the other way.

Some time ago, I happened to see an American baby in a baby carriage. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me. I kept my smile for some more time. She did not look the other way.

So, what is the difference? Are Japanese babies shy and the American babies not? Are babies shy at all?

Why do Japanese babies look the other way while American babies do not? Maybe this difference has nothing to do with shyness but is more culturally profound.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Japanese People Talk to Each Other in English

It happened some years ago. I had a chance to meet my classmates from Teachers College Tokyo campus.

After the occasion, an old classmate and I took the same train because we were going home in the same direction. We talked to each other in English in the spirit of the happy occasion. We were Japanese but were both fluent in English and perhaps more comfortable talking to each other in the language.

A man had been listening to our conversation and looked at us - being upset. He said, "Why are you talking to each other in English. I think you are Japanese. And I don't like two Japanese persons talking in English. When you laugh, it looks like you guys are laughing at something about Japan."

Well, it was some years ago. Today, I had a chance to talk about bilingual Japanese people talking to each other in English. It was a public discussion on the Internet.

A reply from a Japanese man reminded me of the train incident. He said, "You study English in junior high and high school days. Teachers give us poor grades, planting an inferior complex to those who are not interested in English. When you see two Japanese persons talking to each other in English, I want to kick them on the back and say, 'Why are you talking to each other in English? Stop speaking English. I can't stand it.'"

I am not sure if I should be offended or being analytical. One thing for sure is that some Japanese people hold inferior complex serious enough to blame some other Japanese for thier success.