It is seven forty five in the morning here in Japan, and I am finally on Japan time. This will be something of a handicap when I get home, but for now, it’s very helpful.
Today we are going to get on several trains that will eventually take us to Gunma, where my brother’s wedding will be. His wife is already there, tackling the challenge of an international wedding all by herself, poor thing. She is one of those individuals that seems to take on every task as her own, because heaven knows nobody else will do it and she knows how to do it properly. Between the wedding and all that, I will have very little chance to chat with her, which is sad. After the wedding on Saturday (today is Friday, here) we will get on many more trains and head back to Tokyo, where we will be Unashamed Tourists for a day or two.
We have been trying hard not to be too…eh…American so far, to prevent my brother being embarrassed and the people around us from being totally disgusted by our western ways. It was kind of a relief to go to Ben’s schools where I was supposed to be American.
The schools were fun. I spent two days following my brother from class to class. In Japanese middle schools, rather than the students going from room to room, the students generally stay in the same place. It’s the teachers who rotate classes. Ben rotates more than most, having three different schools to teach English to, and having more than a thousand students. Despite the quantity, he knew most of his students rather well, and they were constantly excited to see him. He had told them I was coming well beforehand, and they had prepared questions to ask his American Sister.
The questions were composed mostly out of the few words they knew. “Do you like Japanese food?” “What is your favorite color?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” I had to answer in the simplest English I possibly could, all the while being sweet and happy and smiley to prevent any terror on part of the students. The students in Japan seemed…very shy. Possibly (probably) it was just the presence of Ben Sensei’s sister. They were interested in me, yes. There was a lot of seeing students at the end of hallways, where they yelled “HERRO!”, giggled, and dove out of sight. On the second day I was there, some even bolstered the courage to come speak to me individually.
There were a number of very adorable girls that heard that I had read DeathNote and Dragonball, both being comic books that are very popular in Japan. Two and a half very bashful girls (the last never spoke and always stayed two feet behind the others) shuffled up to me as Ben and I were leaving the classroom.
“Do you…have a question…for my sister?” Ben asked them, slowly and clearly.
This caused uncontrollable giggling and hiding behind each other. They reevaulated their plan in whispered Japanese. I caught practiced phrases of questions, followed by adjustments. Finally they stood in front of me and said, slowly, “In…Desu Notu….do you like…L?”
(L is one of the main characters of the series. He looks a bit like a lanky cracked out Japanese Precious Moments figurine)
I considered and said, very slowly, “Yes…I like L very much…he is very cute!”
The girls made the sound that I imagine a very large bat would make. A sort of sonar “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!” and jumped up and down. I tried not to laugh too much.
“Do you…like…L?” I asked them.
“Hai hai…yes,” said the braver of the two girls. “I like…L…also! He is…cute!”
More bat noises and jumping.
The girls weren’t sure what to do next. They toyed with their school uniforms (pretty much exactly as anime has portrayed them to be, except with longer skirts) and whispered to each other in Japanese. Ben, standing by the door, told them, “You can…ask…another…question…if you want.”
The girls stood, faced me, and then dissolved again into squealing and giggles and whispers. Suddenly, they spotted a girl passing behind me in the hall and hailed her with bat noises, apparently the language of adorable middle school Japanese girls. The girl, a bit sassier than her two and a half compatriots, stood with her hands on her hips and listened to the frantic query. She turned and faced me and boldly asked:
“In Dragonball, what is favorite karuta?”
“Karuta?” I asked. Their faces fell. “Oh, uhm, uh,” I thought quickly. “Character?”
“Ah, yes! Karata!” cried the girls. The sassy one nodded and left with a raised eyebrow. I thought about this, trying to remember if I knew any characters, especially any that I particularly liked.
“Oh, eh…” I said. “I like…Goku.”
The girls squealed and jumped up and down.
“HEEEEEE! PICCOLO! PICCOLO!” The bat noises at this point were explosive. I was sure I would see in sonar for months. The more bashful of the two whole girls seized my hands and jumped up and down.
“You like Piccolo also?” I asked her. She nodded enthusiastically.
“I like Piccolo very much,” she stated emphatically. The other girl flapped her hands.
“I like Goku very much!” she offered.
“I like Goku also.” I told her.
Finally, Ben had to tear me away to go to our next class. I left them holding onto each other spouting a torrent of excited Japanese. I tried to memorize it.
“They were really sweet,” I told Ben.
“Yep,” he said, distracted. A hoard of boys at the end of the hallway saw me and shouted, “JESHKA!” and promptly began to shove each other into the walls in a nervous display.
Woof, long post! Sorry about that. My posts may be sporadic for the next few days, as we’re leaving my brother’s house which has Reliable Internet. But the hope is to find some internet kiosks where I can update you on the wedding and all that good stuff.
Hope all is well in the Western world!