Tuesday, July 15, 2008

School of Life-Japan 1991

Doesn't it seem like we go to school forever? When we are young, we start out in kindergarten or nursery school. We progress to elementary or primary school. As we get older we move on to junior high and then high school. Even if we don't go to University, we all keep on learning. Learning can be done either the easy way or the hard way.

Sean went to the Minami Yoichien in Urayasu. (the kindergarten) We weren't allowed to drive him there by car; all mothers were advised to either walk their children to school or take them on a bicycle. I found myself with a bicycle seat in front of me and another one behind me. Sean sat behind me while Katrina sat precariously in front of me. The bikes were parked one street away. Japanese mothers disembarked gracefully and extricated their children from the seats. It never ceased to amaze me how graceful and feminine the Japanese women were. I rode up on my bicycle with a stuttering stop. The bike invariably listed to one side as I attempted to get the children out of their seats before the bike fell. All the while, I tried to look graceful; of course, it was a lost cause.

On one of my more 'graceful' days, I was approached by several Japanese mothers. They asked if I would be willing to teach the English class at the Kominkan. I was already teaching English in Shibuya and the thought of teaching closer to home certainly held some appeal. sigh. If I only knew those women had no intention of learning English. This was their masterful scheme to have a 'girls day out.'

I tried. I used beautiful sign boards and clever English teaching techniques. I ordered no Japanese to be spoken in the classroom. My 'students' covered their mouths ever so politely with their hands and giggled with just the right tone. They ended the giggle with a gentle, "gomenasai" (
sorry) I wondered what they were apologizing for. I guess they were apologizing for the false pretences of my employment. Not to worry, I soon joined in their little 'girls day out' and we found various locations other than the kominkan to 'learn english.' I thank my "Mothers' English Class" because they became my teachers. They taught me how to make tea just right. They instructed me on the correct napkins to use and the right kind of serving dish. They patiently worked with me until I understood the significance of making sure the child is sent to school with their pencils sharpened just so and their erasers intact with a cleverly packed obento. Yes, they taught me the ways of Japan.


  1. Just call me 'A'September 16, 2009 at 7:59 PM

    Ha ha. What was the purpose behind cycling or walking in lieu of using a car?

  2. A- I would like to know the purpose too- it might have been to ensure the safety of the children. The roads were very narrow and so maybe they were afraid cars clogging the roads w/ children running around might not be a good combination.


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