“But how will he accomplish all that in a single segment?” you ask yourself. Easy. I will scrutinize and affront the hard work of my most diligent students. I mean, what’s the point of teaching at a middle school in Japan, if not to make fun of the kids who try really hard? 13 year olds are inherently stupid, awkward and creepy. But when they attempt to articulate their stupid, awkward creepiness in a foreign language? Mocking them just makes sense.
These are authentic quotes from actual students/Japanese people. Also, in italics, I’ve included the avuncular and highly educational rejoinders I wish I had the courage to say to their faces. But I never do. Because I am a paradigm of professionalism.
Most of these are written responses to classroom assignments. The other ones are just some crazy shit I heard/read once.
1) Classroom Assignment: what would you do if you had 1,000,000 yen (US equivalent about $13,000)?
“I would have my own room”
(I feel you, Naoki, I do. Sharing a room sucks. Your little sister is probably super annoying. Your mom probably reads her the worst bedtime stories ever; princesses and enchanted furniture and tea parties and shit like that. And you just lie there and listen. You’re fourteen. You don’t believe in enchanted furniture anymore. And there’s nowhere for you to masturbate to all those fairytale princesses in peace. That’s the worst. I get it. But still, I think we should augment our wish list a little bit. Include some things that, you know, other kids might enjoy too. Social things. Maybe a go-cart and a hot-tub, for starters? Or one of those life-size wooden pirate-ships with slides and pulleys and zip-lines projecting off it? For Christ’s Sake, Naoki, act your age. I mean, once you have a life-size pirate ship in your front yard, you won’t need your own room. Because you’ll have your own pirate ship. And maybe some friends too.)
“I would have a teacup, a dog, books and a cat.”
(Maya, Maya, Maya. You clearly have no idea what $13,000 is. But at least it sounds like you have your own room. It also sounds like there are seven adult cats living in your room. And 16 wall-calendars of dogs wearing suspenders hanging in your room. And an oversized cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy from the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. By the way, please stop watching the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. Here, let me to introduce you to Naoki. No, he doesn’t have a British accent or wear suspenders (is the redundant?). But he will have his own pirate ship pretty soon. You’re welcome.)
2) Classroom Assignment: write a Christmas card to a celebrity and explain why you admire him/her.
Chieri (writing to Ana Ortiz, of “Ugly Betty"):
“I think you are a very beautiful woman. I want to become a beautiful woman like you, in the future.”
(I don't know who Ana Ortiz is and I don’t know what to tell you, Chieri. No wait, I do: quit being ridiculous. You can aspire to emulate someone’s hard work and talent, but not their looks. Everyone knows that. Some things cannot be helped. Like your face. Merry Christmas.)
Riku (writing to Darren Shan, author of such “Horror Fantasy” genre classics as Birth of a Killer, Palace of the Damned and Ocean of Blood:
“When I read your novel, I know how to use power and courage. Thank you. Give me feeling.”
(Me writing A++ on the assignment and backing away, slowly).
Hiyori (writing to Johnny Depp):
“I watched a foreign movie. Very interesting! When I watched Pirates of the Caribbean, I cried.”
(First of all, Hiyori, I commend you. Most Americans don’t watch foreign movies. And if any American ever tells you “that’s because there’s no foreign Johnny Depp,” remind him that the badass dude that didn’t talk in No Country for Old Men is not actually a mute. He is Javier Bardem. He is foreign. He can act. He is sexy. And I’m pretty sure if he wasn’t such a socialist, he'd own an island too. Wait, what? Johnny Depp actually has his own island in the Caribbean where he dresses up in pirate costumes, drinks rum and does cartwheels? I just looked it up, it’s true. Johnny Depp is so awesome. There is no second of all. Let’s all just cry together. Because we are not Johnny Depp. What was his address again?)
3) An E-mail I Received From a Member of My Adult Conversation Class
Atsuko: “I heard you had an injury. I think you are so inconvenient.”
(My father only ever taught me three rules for living life. 1. Don’t tell a girl you love her, if you don’t love her. 2. Never fight with your sister. 3. Don’t hurt someone unintentionally. If you hurt someone, mean to hurt them, and hurt them bad.
Be careful with your words, Atsuko. Because this hurts. Bad.)
4) Classroom Assignment: compose and send an e-mail to a teacher, applying the recently covered grammar of interrogatives.
Shoki (writing to me):
“Who is your sister doing?”
(I hope she’s doing her husband, Shoki. I sincerely hope so. Although she just birthed her second baby, a beautiful girl name Effie, so I doubt she’s doing anyone at the moment. She, Effie, was born on Valentine’s Day. I wish I could have been there. I’ve missed the births of both of my nieces and I feel horrible about it. What kind of uncle am I? I’m a shitty uncle, that’s what I am. Why am I so selfish? Does my family even know how much I love them? Wait a second. Why am I still writing this reply e-mail? Leave me alone, Shoki. Your grammar sucks, you little perv.)
5) First-Year Notebook Homework: write each new vocabulary word fifteen times.
Ai: “Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell.”
(You have two options here, Ai. 1. Seek professional help. 2. Add a fucking “o” at the end. It’s your choice. And also, stay away from Riku. That’s all.)
Yuya: “Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t. Cun’t.”
(Yuya: either close your a’s or get a pirate ship and invite some girls over. I don’t care which.)
And that concludes this installment of “When Japanese People Ruminate.” Please join me next time, when we cover what Japanese adolescents think of Rosa Parks and how they describe their own “balls.” Those are two separate topics. Most of the time.