Thursday, April 2, 2009

"I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."

The other day we had a final farewell to the departing teachers. Because I haven't known who is leaving or when, if today is the last time I will see them or next week, I've said goodbye to some of the same people several times. It's gotten to be rather anti-climatic, but thankfully less painful. Some of the teachers had been here up to nine years - which seems short compared to America where I had a teacher that had taught my parents before me - but is quite long in Japan where they shuffle them around every year. 22 out of 58 teachers are leaving. Though we've had five English teachers, there will only be four, to match the decreasing number of students.

On that subject, I was given a pamphlet that included a chart for the past 50 years, of how many students, and teachers there had been for each, how many graduates, and how many classes they were divided into. It looks like a boring list of numbers but I've been fascinated. For instance, this year there were about 700 students in 21 classes, with 60 staff. That makes about 33 students in each class. (If we don't get a few transfers, there will be one less class in April.) Back in the 1960s, however, there were more than 1500 students but only 20-something faculty, with more than 50 kids in each class! I can't imagine controlling all of them. I can't help but wonder about the significance between every rise and fall. Why did it peak in 1962 at 1578 students, with a smaller rise in 1988 at 1156? They probably had a baby boom around the same time we did after the war, but unlike us the population has been going down since then. The main business in this area has also been diminishing. Why are there ten more staff in 2000 when there's only 20 more students? As people get more cautious, new positions are created or divided from previous multi-purpose staff - we now have a nutritionist and a counselor on board. My own job is fairly recent. The most pressing question for me - how on earth did they fit 50 teenagers into one room, and control them all? And most worrying - what if the population trend continues?

I mentioned these questions to two of the English teachers - male and female, both single, with very different personalities. "Well," they both replied, in different conversations, on different days, sighing heavily, "I need to have some babies."


I went to the big city to see the Watchmen movie, because it's one of the few Western comics I like - I can count them on one hand; Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. It's always interesting to see movies in another country with subtitles in that language. My sister and I, for example, went to see Magnolia in Prague. And there was a noticeable wave effect - we would laugh at a line as it was spoken, while the people reading the Czech would laugh a moment later. Watchmen isn't exactly a movie to laugh at, but I kept an eye on the subtitles just to compare the difference. For one, it's a movie with very strong language, and the Japanese version was bizarrely mild in comparison. Being rude in Japanese is mostly a matter of not using the honorific form due to a person. There were a few moments where I felt like protesting, "But that translation makes it sound like they're having a decent conversation, how will the viewers get the subtleties?" But that, I suppose, is the danger of other languages. (That's the reason I refused for so long to read Japanese comics, because I hate the thought of depending on another person to translate for me, and that's the reason I'm trying so hard to learn the language so I can read on my own two feet). Also, because Watchmen is about superheroes, all of the characters have their real name - first and last - plus their masked name. Evidently the translator thought all these names - in their katakana forms - would be too hard to remember - which I can understand, it's hard even for me - so they picked the most commonly used form for each character. Which again made me squirm, "But that character wouldn't call that character by his first name!" At least they didn't do what many translators do, which is add the -san honorific as though it has the same connotations as our "Mister."

There were only a few other people in the theater with me, and it was the smallest screen in the complex. Even though the commercials have been on TV for a month I guess it's not a big draw here. And I can see how it would be hard to appreciate for a Japanese person - it's another case of being so chock-full of American nostalgia and references. I don't recommend it as viewing for you, dear Readers, but in case you're curious. Based on the premise that from the 1940s there have been costumed superheroes fighting crime, and in the 1980s setting they are aging and troubled, and someone starts killing them off. From Juvenal's Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? the idea being what happens when the people who are supposed to be protecting you are what you need to be protected from? It's always an interesting concept, and Watchmen in particular raises questions about every graphic novel stereotype ever. Some scenes I couldn't look at the screen, some I couldn't look away - though I prefer V for Vendetta for various reasons, this was still a good movie-going experience.

Since I was in the mall, afterwards I went shopping <3 There is an import food store that is a dangerous place that sucks all my money out of my wallet. I spent 4000 yen, which is more than I usually spend on food in a month. But! I now have: real pickles, olives, beets, chai, cheese, and tortellinis. I haven't eaten tortellinis in over a year, which considering they're one of my all-time favorite food is unfathomable. Now if only I can find raviolis somewhere. I also got these flowering teas that I've heard of and that sound interesting. They come in little rolls bound with thread and "blossom" in hot water.


Ah, I forgot to post these interesting bits of bark:

Regarding this tree, it's in the part of the park where few dare to tread so it isn't labeled. And hand in hand with my lack of knowledge of the birds of this region comes an inability to recognize the plant life. I think it might be a sycamore? When I go back, I'll look at the leaves too.

As someone who adores citrus of all varieties, I'm both in awe and jealous of this farmer who has grafted eleven kinds onto one tree.

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