Sunday, September 19, 2010

What happens when bad things happen in Japan?

The title of this is probably somewhat misleading. I am not talking about bad things like murders or accidents. I am talking more about breaking the rules or inconveniencing someone, or simply not living up to expectations. I have had experience with all of them so far, unfortunately. This probably will sound more whinny than I want it to, but it is 2 am and I am mildly frustrated at the moment.

Lets start with failing. I attempted to make it into the level 3 class this week for reading and writing because it is technically the level I should be in. However, after not having studied Kanji (the Japanese characters that there are thousands of) I didn't pass the level 3 test. My reading and writing teacher, a level 2 Japanese teacher, when I asked her about my results, came up to me and said "You didn't make it" and then smiled. Now some people say that a smile in a difficult situation like that is normal for Japanese. I would probably agree with that except for every ounce of me was telling me that that smile was really saying "Ha told you so, you couldn't handle level 3 anyways. Aren't you lucky you get to be in my class." Needless to say, I am not overly fond of this teacher, but lesson learned; Japanese people smile in difficult social situations.

Next comes inconveniencing someone. There is the 'walking with 10 friends down a narrow sidewalk in Japan, hindering bicycle traffic' type of inconveniencing where you receive glares, but no comments all the while until you apologize with a Japanese "I'm sorry". Then there is the one where you lose your house key after spending the whole night out in Karaoke until 5 am in the morning. Fortunately my host family was very calm about it and helped me find the opening times for the places where I might have lost my key. I think that in other families that could have cost me my homestay.

Finally the last part is breaking rules. Most of the time, Japanese people are non-confronters. If you break a social norm and are for example very loud on the train, for the most part they won't ever tell you that you were doing something wrong. (They will, however, fight you tooth and nail about whether you can eat your curry rice with a spoon or chopsticks. You have to eat it with a spoon. I don't want to eat curry rice with a spoon, so I will never eat it again.) Tonight, I left the Seminar House 4 building at 10:00 pm just like I was supposed to and walked all over town with my two friends before coming back to the Seminar House to get my bike. You are actually not allowed on the grounds after 10:00 if you are not a resident, which I was aware of but somehow that didn't occur to me. I sat out there for like 10 minutes with my friends talking before one of the Resident Assistants, who happened to be one of my good friends, told me to leave right away. I left, but I really felt bad for possibly having cause him trouble.

This post is not to complain, so much as to say that I have respect for Japanese people, including my friend for the fact that sometimes you have to be harsh, even with your friends to make sure a rule is enforced. He knows that I will never do anything bad at the Seminar House, but if I do it, then other people might do it, and other people aren't as nice as I am.

Sorry. I suppose this post wasn't so much for you as it was for me. I used it to vent, and to justify why my friend had to do what he did. Thanks for listening though!


1 comment:

  1. Jake,

    Interesting blog you got here! I particularly like how your contemplative your post is. I still haven't reached the stage where can overcome my fascination with everything Japanese. So, reading this post helps in many ways...

    and, needless to say, the picture on your banner is.... awesome.