Teaching in Japan Stories #2

Well, as the days have gone by I’ve been making little notes of things that have happened or things I’ve noticed that I thought would be fun to mention here.

And now that I’ve got another decent sized list, here we are with another teaching in Japan stories post!

Story Girl

Speaking of stories, here’s one about one of the 2nd year (gr. 8 equivalent) girls at my main school. I’ll call her Story Girl, because that’s what she does – she writes stories in English, to the best of her ability, for me to read and correct. She likes writing, so she decided to try to write a Japanese folk tale in English, and then gave it to her teacher to give to me.

Her first story was… I’ll be honest, I forget. I think it was about a boy that saved a village or something. It was only a one-off, and her first story. Now she’s been writing this story about an old couple in the mountains that are being harassed by a tanuki. Her English isn’t the greatest, and there are a lot of mistakes, but sometimes that makes reading the stories funnier for me.

At one part the old man comes home to find his wife was attacked by the tanuki, and the way she wrote it the old man enters their house and says “old woman, you look terrible”. Things like that have been entertaining. She tries her best and she’s really enthusiastic in class, but I think she relies too much on directly translating words from Japanese to English, so she is struggling a bit there. She didn’t do so hot on the last test and she was pretty disappointed about that.

I’m silently cheering for her though!

(I don’t know if her friends know about the stories so I don’t want to embarrass her by saying anything to her in front of her classmates).

Anyways, this is another good example of how the students in class are shy to interact in-person, but then when it comes to indirect communication, all of the sudden it’s okay. Like this girl is shy to speak to me directly, but okay with writing full page stories for me to read. If anything, I think this is a good example of how Japanese people operate in general, as they really like indirect methods of communication with others.

Chicken Pizza

This is actually not exactly related to teaching, but it happened at school so I’m throwing it in. I’m good friends with the school officer – he’s basically the admin guy for the school. Handles payroll, ordering supplies, answers phone calls… stuff like that. He lived in the US for a year maybe a decade ago when he was in high school on an exchange program, and since then hasn’t really spoken much English.

So he loves conversing with me in English, and he teaches me some Japanese here and there too.

One day, we were talking about pizza, because I frequently make my own. And he tells me that he made “chicken pizza” the other day. Naturally I assume it’s pizza with chicken as a topping. But then he explains that what he does is he pounds out the chicken, breads and fries it, and then puts tomato sauce and cheese on top.

I was laughing so much, telling him “Dude, that’s not chicken pizza, you literally made chicken parmesan!!” He kept assuring me it was chicken pizza, because him and his wife have always called it that. Was just a funny moment. I told him to eat it with some pasta next time, and he thought that would be a good idea. But he’s still going to keep calling it chicken pizza.


Speaking of, I promised I’d do this, so here we go.

Zuku (ずく) is a Nagano-ben (Nagano dialect) word that basically means something like… “the will to put effort into something”. My school officer friend loves this word. His favourite phrase is: “ずくがないすよ” which is basically “I have no zuku, you know”. He likes to include it in English sentences too, saying something like “I would, but I have no zuku so…”.

Anyways, he loves the word, and it’s one of the few words unique to Nagano so he wants to keep it alive. He asked a student if they knew it and they didn’t, which disappointed him that the younger generation is losing the local lingo.

In the end he said we have to do our part to get the word out about zuku, so there you have it, and here we are. Lately I haven’t had much zuku myself when it comes to writing posts! Got this one written though.

sakuta azusagawa boredom

No Running in the Halls….?

Yeah about that, at my schools, everyone runs in the halls! So much so that I think students (and teachers) run more here than they ever did in the schools I attended as a kid. When I was a kid, if you were running, be it jogging or a full blown sprint, you’d get scolded by a teacher for running in the halls.

But here, kids do it all the time! Straight up sprinting isn’t as common, but I’ve seen it. But jogging / half running happens pretty much every single day, several times. Even some teachers do it. I guess the idea of no running in the halls isn’t really considered an issue here, at least in my schools!

History Lesson

This is kind of a follow-up from my last stories post. Last time, I walked into a 3rd year class alone, and they were all wondering where the other English teacher was. This time, I once again walked into their class alone. And instead of wasting time, I jumped right into a history lesson. Eigo de.

I wrote June 20, 1837 on the board. And then asked the students what why this was an important day in world history. Naturally, being uncultured swine who don’t learn English history (just kidding) they didn’t know. So I told them that this was the day Victoria became queen of England. I told them it might be a bonus question on their tests (they knew it wouldn’t be).

One girl in that class in particular though remembered the date, and now if I bring up Queen Victoria she immediately will shout out “one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven!” which makes me laugh. As you can probably guess, they don’t really know the nuance between reading a regular number, and reading a year. She has great enthusiasm at least, and at least one of the students remembers such an important piece of historical information.

Test Day

The other week was test day, where the entire school takes tests for all of their major classes, which I believe are math, science, social studies, Japanese, and English. As I had no classes to teach, I was bored pretty much all day. So I had to do something.

So, in-between periods / tests, I’d pop into the classrooms to give the students a thumbs up and say “Ganbate! (Do your best!)”. The first couple times they just thanked me. But then I kept popping in and saying it. Finally, the tests were all over. So once again, I popped into the classrooms and said the same thing, only this time I got a bunch of “Ganbata! Owatta yo! (We DID our best! The tests are over!)” responses.

And then finally, after the weekend, the next week, I did it again, just to mess with them one last time. Honestly it was probably funnier for me than anything.

End Time

This is just something I learned recently, as I’d never actually stayed late enough to see the very end of the day. I was told I can pop in to see the clubs in action but haven’t really done it yet, chalk it up to me wanting to go home (I don’t get paid after 3:30pm) and me feeling a little shy about disturbing any club activities, especially given my Japanese isn’t the best although I can get by in a one-on-one conversation.

Anyways, I was surprised to find out what time everything actually ends. School typically ends at 4pm, which is already later than any school I went to in Canada (usually ended at 3pm). But what’s crazy is that clubs don’t just go till 5pm, like I had previously thought, they go till 6pm! 6:10pm to be exact.

Then because of Japanese work culture, the teachers stay an extra hour or two beyond that. Here, it’s not about how efficient you are. It’s about how much “effort” you put in by sticking around as long as possible.

If anything I just thought it was surprising how late clubs go. Sort of helps explain why it can be dark outside many times when characters are walking home after club activities in anime! And that doesn’t even touch upon how often many clubs meet on weekends too.

Anyways, that’s my second batch of stories.

I’ll try to keep you all posted on Story Girl, should she continue to write stories now that tests are done with. I’d love to talk with her after school but she also is huge into basketball and plays for the team, so she’s pretty much always busy.

She also has a twin sister in another 2nd year class, which is pretty crazy. Well, no one has told me they are twins, but I’m going out on a limb here and assuming they are twins because: they look the same, they have the same family name, I’ve seen them walking to school together, and they have the same pencil case!

Anyways, as usual I’m just going to keep at it and hopefully get some good stories or learn some interesting tidbits along the way.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Teaching in Japan Stories #2

    1. I tried to do my best imitation of the “Good luck. We’re all counting on you.” gag from the movie Airplane. I think it went pretty well.

      I think the students here are pretty similar to how it is in Canada, asking each other how they thought they did and stuff like that. The only oddity is having to take all of their tests in a single day, which seems pretty rough.

      Liked by 1 person

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