Myth 1: All Japanese Children Are Perfect Polite Little Angels.
Some kids at the middle school love to mimic things I say in silly voices. If I try to speak Japanese they’ll impersonate my accent and if I speak English… they’ll impersonate my accent. I’m being bullied by 13 year-olds. They’ve also complained that I smell ‘too European’*. They said this in Japanese but my co-teacher later took it upon herself to charitably translate it for the otherwise blissfully ignorant me. The same kids have also been known to hold their noses as Western teachers walk by, and a friend of mine has been told by her students that she looks like a bear.
I played hangman recently with some year 7s who couldn’t WAIT to use it as a opportunity to spell out ‘S E X’ on the blackboard (yes… BLACKBOARD. See next myth.) And there is also a common prank among kids known as ‘Kancho’, where male teachers are poked in the arse (and I’m not talking about just on the innocuous cheek).
So, that’s a laugh. Actually, I say male teachers… I’m not sure that female teachers are exempt, so perhaps I’ve got a child’s finger in my arse to look forward to in the new term? Can’t wait.
So just as we, in year 8 Spanish class turned the gradual wearing down of Madame Dunnit into a sport (yes Madame… even though she taught Spanish… but that was the kind of school I went to), Japanese kids share similar ambitions. Turns out, a teenager is a teenager no matter the country.
(My primary school children however, are delightful little darlings who are almost unbearably cute. It takes all my strength to not hug them to death on a daily basis.)
*According to my co-teacher, there is a general feeling among Japanese kids that Westerners wear too much perfume and therefore smell disgusting (her words).
Myth 2: Japan is super technologically advanced and most things are just holograms.
There’s a chance that mine and my colleagues work laptops were among the first ever made. Mine takes about 10 minutes to fire up and the mouse only works on a Tuesday and Friday. There is no wifi, only LAN connections and often some teachers can’t work out how to make the TV screens comply with laptops and so they hand the reigns to Emily Computer Illiterate Bratt. I once impressed them with my sweet IT skillz when I surmised that the TV wasn’t showing a picture because it wasn’t plugged in at the wall. I subsequently plugged it in, the picture appeared as if by magic and I was hailed Lord of the Computer.
But…. Japan as a technological super power isn’t a complete untruth. Advancements are just confined to specific industries like robotics or electronics. Anyone outside of these sectors is left with chalk and slate, in my case, literally.