Japan Letter #3

November 21st 2007

Dear Class of 08,

I realized that I haven’t told you much about Japan yet. I know you don’t want to do much learning outside of the classroom, but I promise to spice up this research essay with some princely adjectives. (Be careful not to trust what I say, but understand that it is only the way that I interrupt things and by on means the way they actually are.)

Japan is roughly the size of Texas, yet it contains the 9th largest population in the world. Not only is Japan microscopic, but roughly 60% of the land is uninhabitable for humans because it is mountainous, and building infrastructure on them is damn near difficult. This leaves only a plot of land maybe three or four times the size of Pennsylvania as prime/livable real estate.

I agree, how on earth can such a small amount of land provide for so many people. The explanation is that the Japanese are masters,(not pokemon masters), of space management. The city of Nagoya has certainly sorted its space. There are no useless expanses of space in Nagoya, unlike Philadelphia which is host to many largely unused spaces (triangle park, love park). To help with space conservation most Japanese ride bikes and trains and take as little room as humanly possible with living space. Although Japan is statistically, “crowded”. I have not found Japan to be more compact then the Philadelphia area. Remember we live in the most crowded part of America.

I think it is safe to say that Japan is technologically ahead of us, there I said it.

Most Cars here are stock with GPS systems and the use of flatscreen TV’s is rampant, but the true expression of the technological future is found in Japan’s cell phones.

I have seen Cell phones that change the channel of televisions, do voice recognition English to Japanese translation, and most phones serve as TVs. In Japan if someone wants to exchange numbers with someone, they have only to hold their phones next to each other and the cell phones will exchange information automatically via infared (you remember infrared, the thing one Fribee used to talk to another Fribee). But of all these things the best feature of the Japanese cell phone is that at certain vending machines you can pay for your products by waving your phone at the machine and the price of the product will be charged to your phone bill. I wonder why we have none of this technology if all our phones come from Japan.

Young people in Japan…  The morning trains are packed with commuting students donning their uniforms. All boys’ uniforms are largely identical, but there is more variety in girls’ uniforms. Although the uniforms are government selected the socks of the girls uniforms are allowed to be school selected or self selected. Although usually black, some brave souls show small amounts of self-expression in the selection of their socks. It is heart warming to see young people spreading their wings wherever possible.

After school it is illegal to change out of your uniform until you have returned home. Although this law is rarely enforced it results in everyone still wearing their uniform until the evening when they finally return home.

When it comes to free time most young Japanese are as broke as young Americans and tend to spend their time exactly as Americans do. On the occasion that they want to go out the options are much like America, window shopping, Karaoke, arcades (super popular and abundant here),photo-booths, hanging out, movies and events (concerts, festivals, plays….) But most kids just hang out at home or at their friend’s homes. The youth of the world are united in their search for something to do.

Yet, I think that because public transportation is well built, cheap, and safe the Japanese youth may have more entertainment accessible to them.

Living with a Japanese family is the most important part of life here, it is from my host family that I learn the most about Japanese life/regular life. I can share some of the interesting things I have learned from my family.

Don’t whistle at night or a snake will come! According to my host mother This is a serious fear, and she ACTUALLY scolds me if I do whistle after sun down. Don’t sleep with your belly exposed or you will get sick. Dont blow your nose in front of others, if you must do so you are expected to do so in the bathroom. Don’t pour your own drinks. Sleeping in school isn’t punishable, but silly, no shoes indoors, and like Marge Simpson calling to Brat ” Take a Sweater!!….words my host mother never fails to shout.

The school system in Japan is worth learning about. ( here comes the boring legal language.)  In America every citizen has the right to graduate high school at any point in his or her life it is a right along with citizenship (hence the G.E.D. for returning students). However in Japan this right is only extended until junior high, making high school optional. Therefore if you quit High school, you will have a very difficult time, I was told almost impossible, if you wish to return. Basically the Japanese have one shot at high school. The Japanese also have the right to attend class. This means that a teacher cannot bar a student from a class. Teachers can’t kick unruly kids out of class because they have the legal right to return. ( most students don’t know this and are thrown out of class all the time). Because of this law the only thing a school can do with an unruly student is to expel them. But expulsion form high school is a much bigger deal here and most teachers do not want to be responsible for ruining a young persons future. So, the Japanese schools create one class where they stuff all the bad kids and look the other way at their bad behavior, for the sake of their futures they do not expel them. My schools bad boys are in “I” class and every second week a new horror story comes from that room. This week a Desk and a Window didn’t get along too well.

ok, I talked about space, young people, free time, phones, family ideas, the legal aspect of Japanese schools.

It has gotten very cold here, I wake everyday before the sun. I wrap myself in gloves, layers of cloths and a scarf wrapped around my face, as if I were expecting a sandstorm. Life here is just as enchanting and mundane as life in America, with shining moments and routines. I got Alex’s photos as Doug and loved them. Take care, enjoy thanksgiving and the last winter in High school, I will be seeing you again soon.

P.S.  I was surprised to see that someone put one of these letters in the Falcon.

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