Welcome to the final, brief installment of When Japanese People Ruminate. If you aren’t familiar with this recurring segment, please refer to my previous, similarly titled posts. Again, these are all authentic quotes provided by actual Japanese students. And again, in italics, I’ve included the rejoinders I always thought but never said.
1) Classroom Assignment: Write a few sentences describing what you did yesterday.
“I dug hole. I like digging holes. I saw larva. I was caught in the rain. It a sharp and long rain. I went home at once.
(I admire your gumption, Kanako. Digging holes isn’t a conventional hobby but you enjoy it so screw what other people think. Yesterday you dug a hole because digging holes makes you happy. Good for you. But wait a second. You found larva? Do you mean lava? “Larva” isn’t everyday vocabulary, even for native English speakers. You either meant to write lava or you took the time to look-up a very specialized word.
Dictionary.com defines larva as: the immature, wingless, feeding stage of an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis.
So i.e. you dug up a nest of slimy, undeveloped insects? That’s gross and a little worrisome. Except I just remembered that in Southern Nagano people eat various kinds of larva, including bee and grasshopper. Harvesting bug fetuses must be a legitimate profession around here. So maybe you were just being industrious. Maybe your family figured that since you spend all your free time digging holes anyway, you might as well collect some larva while you’re at it. I mean that’s still weird, but not as weird as believing you unearthed a genuine geological phenomenon. Unless you really did discover an underground lava reservoir, in which case it’s a good thing it started raining. Also by the way, you have some really good prose here. A sharp and long rain. That’s quality imagery. You should probably quit digging up embryonic beetles and focus on writing. You know, launch a blog or something. That’s where the real money is.)
“I ate miso soup. I danced. I watched cartoons.”
(This, Tomomi, sounds like a totally excellent Sunday. You should invite other people over. Like me. )
2) Classroom Assignment: Select a Toyooka JHS teacher and create a fictional account of his/her childhood.
“When Mr. Kawakami was a child, he spoke silently.”
(This is goddamn elegiac, Natsuki. But it sounds to me like wishful thinking. Mr. Kawakami is a bald, unmarried, lecherous science teacher and he speaks loudly. We’ve all heard him drone on and on about those many nights he spends at hostess clubs. It’s disgusting. And how he talks about school lunch? Who the hell describes food as “so soft it makes me lonely?” Trust me, everyone wishes Mr. Kawakami would speak silently. But he doesn’t now and he didn’t as a child. Jesus. I can’t even imagine the immodest stuff 13yr old Kawakami said to his classmates. I bet they hated him.)
“When Mr. Kawakami was a child, he played in the mountains and he liked porcupines. “
(You’re funny, Rin. You’re probably my favorite. A+.)
3) Classroom Assignment: Describe the scene of Rosa Parks refusing to move to the rear of a Montgomery bus. Use dialogue. Work with two partners and consult the Rosa Parks textbook chapter.
Kohei, Sakura and Hana:
“One day Rosa Parks took a seat near the white section. Soon that section filled up. The driver ordered Mrs. Parks to give up her seat. But she didn’t move.
‘Give up your seat! Don’t you hear me?’
‘No, I won’t. Why must I give up my seat?’
‘Because you must give up your seat to white people.’
‘I think you are wrong.’
‘Stop talking. You’re cheeky. I’ll call the police.’
The driver called the police. ‘Hello, police. A black lady didn’t change her seat. Please come soon.’
The police came. ‘The bus driver said you didn’t give up your seat. Is that true? I’ll arrest you. Come to the police office.’
‘I won’t follow you. I didn’t do anything bad.’
‘It’s the law.’
Martin Luther King Jr. heard this news. ‘It’s wrong! The black people have to fight. But I don’t want to use violence… Well, I have a good idea. Let’s not use buses,’ he said.”
(Kohei, Sakura and Hana, you win. I have zero spiteful comments. These descriptions are concise and austere. The dialogue is PG-rated but still realistic. The white authority figures speak like courteous white people abusing their power. Rosa Parks is non-confrontational and righteous. MLK is a hard thinker. Everything is perfect. I hope this is exactly what happened. I’m going to memorize all of it right now.)