Japanese culture is different from ours. For one thing, it consists almost entirely of Japanese people.
-Dave Barry, Dave Barry Does Japan (Random House, 1992)
|Luther, up the hill from the main gate.|
I head up to the teachers' office and open the door. "It is early," I say in Japanese to the other teachers, who reply in kind. "'Morning," I say to Morgan and Brent, in English.
At 8:15 it's time for the Morning Ceremony in the main teachers' office. All the teachers stand in a circle around the room as the vice principal greets everyone. "It is early," he says with a bow. "I humbly request announcements."
Then various teachers stand up and give their notifications. "About the test proctoring last week; you have taken care of me..." "Apologies, this is about the girls' basketball team, but..." "Sorry, a humble request from the library..." Almost all of them end with a bow and a "I humbly request that you treat me favorably."
Then it's time for morning worship up in the Worship Hall. The students file in during the prelude (always played by a student musician) and at 8:30 Choi-chaplain walks up to the microphone to start the service. "Everyone, it is early. I think I want to start the morning worship for today. Let us prepare our hearts for worship and hold silence during the prelude." 30 seconds of music later, he announces the hymn for the morning, and we all stand up, hymnals open, and sing the first few verses. Then we sit down and Choi-chaplain announces the page number and passage of the Scripture for that morning before reading it aloud as we follow along in our own Bibles.
|Heaven. (Sadly, it was heavily damaged|
in the earthquakes this year.)
"Good morning," they reply in unison, and I tell them to sit down. Today's lesson starts with a conversation comprehension warm-up. My Japanese partner teacher and I recite a dialog we've written together about what our favorite colors are as the students answer questions on a handout. Then we check our answers.
"What's Yamada-teacher's* favorite color?" I ask the class. Blank stares, and then a small voice pipes up from the back. "Black?" "What's Laura-teacher's favorite color?" my partner teacher asks. Dead silence. Then I hear one student whisper, "Blue."
Then it's time for them to push their desks together in groups of four to work on five-sentence paragraphs, a writing format we'll visit and revisit all year. My partner teacher and I rove the room checking for concluding sentences, which they often forget. One of the boys has a question. "Teacher! Teacher teacher teacher!" he says in Japanese, raising his hand. "Yes, student," my partner teacher answers in English, tongue-in-cheek. We exchange quick amused smiles.
Later that morning I'm down in the teachers' office, approaching one of the senior math teachers with a request. "Teacher?" I say tentatively as I stand behind her desk. "Yes, yes," she says, taking off her glasses."It's about the eleventh-grade Special Advanced English Course class," I say, "but would it possibly be good if we used the computer lab a little bit next Wednesday during sixth hour?" "Yes, please do," she replies. "Thank you very much. Sorry," I say, bowing. "No, no," she says with a smile and a wave.
During fourth hour I slip out to the cafeteria before the lunch-hour crowd swarms in. "Welcome!" call all the lunch ladies, all wearing the same opaque hairnets and face masks. "I humbly request the fried tofu and a small rice," I tell them, as they happily scoop each onto separate plates for me. I put the plates on my tray and head over to the cash register. "Yes, I'll humbly take 290 yen," says the lady stationed there. "Ah, teacher, you forgot your chopsticks!"
|Leaving campus through the main gate.|
|Japanese Set Phrase||Meaning in Practice||Literal Meaning|
|Konnichiwa||Hello||Regarding this day|
|Konbanwa||Good evening||Regarding this evening|
|Ohayō gozaimasu||Good morning||It is early|
|Yoroshiku onegaishimasu||Thank you for doing this favor for me
I look forward to working with you
Nice to meet you
|I humbly request that you [treat me] favorably|
|Otsukaresama desu||Good work today
That's all for today
Thanks for your hard work
|You look tired|
Sorry to be a bother
|I am committing a rudeness|
*Names have been changed.
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply--
and how good is a timely word!
Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)