One of the worst things about these seminars is having to interact with other JETs. JETs are pretty much loosers. We have sessions where we are suppose to work out problems, but they really are “bitch” sessions. JETs complain about discipline problems. Nothing gets done because nothing can get done. The system is rigged against it. Teacher’s can yell at students at school, that is the extent of their options. So when students learn to close their ears the one card in the grand deck of discipline options is gone. Anna and I finally snapped after having to talk about discipline for the bazillionth time. We said that the system was broken and the teachers are doing as good a job as they can, but if the Japanese education really wants students to behave it has to change. We should be having meetings with the BOEs not the teachers. The teachers are fine, the system is broken. I am not sure how our message went over, but somebody had to say it.
Now let’s talk about how the system is broken in other ways. First there were Dan’s woes chronicled on his blog. Then there was the “Fun and Games” workshop I attended. The guy running it had never worked with the teacher they stuck him with (she didn’t even go to his school). He worked at a High School and had to do a Junior High School workshop. So his games were horribly inappropriately difficult, because they were high school games. Then he was told that there would be about 30-40 people in the room. He planned the games he demoed accordingly. In the room, there were 70 people. There were not enough chairs in the room to accommodate everyone. It was utter crap. I feel really bad for him -- because it wasn’t his fault – his workshop really sucked.
It wasn’t all bad though. First, the greatness, the coolness, the shock and awe-ness, the taiko high school group was back. It cannot be over stressed the rocking nature of these girls (the group was all girls). It started out with a girl explaining the drum performance in Japanese. Then one girl yelled, “TRANSLATION PLEASE!” To which another girl started speaking a great deal in Spanish. The girl then yelled, “NO! This is English meeting. Talk in English!” So she then had to explain it all in English too. It was hilarious, and very well done, and got you pumped. It was very difficult English because taiko is very theatrical. The beats and movements can be meant to invoke feelings and tell a story. Taiko is the Japanese word for drum. The instruments in a taiko are drums (taiko) of all sizes, the human voice (lots of quality screaming), a reed/bamboo/wooden(?) flute, and Japanese symbols (they are like top hats). I love taiko and I particularly love this group. They really outdid themselves this year. They did a “Wrestling Taiko” performance. In which two teams play the song. There is a large drum in the middle. A moderator plays it at first, then the other members swap off. There are lots of “wrestling” movements for the honor of playing the main drum. One team is from the highlands, the other from an island. If the highland team wins there will be a good crop harvest. If the island team wins there will be a good fish harvest. It just builds and builds. Both teams play their hearts out. They swap turns at the main drum, while leering and posing at each other with the sticks. It cannot be overstressed how kick butt these girls are. I loved them.
Last year we had a chorus sing as well, but this time we had a martial arts demonstration. The discipline was shorinji kenpo. They were really impressive, but also very funny. After a few demos they put on skits. One involved a “bully” getting flipped when he tried to attack the “nice boy”. The next was better; there was a “beautiful girl on the train. Suddenly a strange man appears.” The beautiful girl had a GIANT comical bow in her hair. The strange man was wearing a trench coat, dark glasses, hat, and surgical mask. He tries to grab her so she flips him and kicks him in the face. It drew a great number of cheers. The last sketch was my favorite. A boy was talking to his girlfriend. A robber tries to grab his bag so he flips the robber and kicks him in the butt as he runs away. He then gave a HUGE smile while giving the thumbs up to the audience, all while his girlfriend swoons at his awesomeness in a typical “my hero” pose.
Also good was Dan’s performance. I got to moderate it. I was given an important part as well. During the middle I was able to be a “bad student” and just yell about things. They then showed how to handle me. It was funny. I got to yell “Raturday!” and more or less be a complete jerk to Dan and his JTE. So that was fun.
I also got to take a seminar on ikebana: the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It was very fascinating. We were given some history, and then turned loose on construction of our own piece. You can see mine on my flickr site. I don’t usually go all “artsy” but let me take a stab at this. My ikebana is about losing what you never had. The two carnations are people separated by a barrier (the curved leaf). The right side has tall leaves to invoke the mountains: representing strength and determination. The left side has the little yellow flowers to invoke a flowering tree: representing a beautiful spirit and safety. There are aspects of both “elements” on either side, but each side is dominated by one theme. As one flower wilts the other enters full bloom. They are out of phase and divided. They will never be both in their prime. The two flowers will never be together in that moment of time. The ikebana is about failure to make one unified entity despite the desire of the flower in bloom. I meant it to be tragic and reflective of isolation and an impossible desire for something that cannot happen. It is suppose to be sobering and reflexive of loss; the group found it looked “cheerful” and “beautiful”. Perhaps this is why I don’t dive into art more often…
Thursday night we went to Tin’s Hall, a gaijin bar in Tennoji, we had a real Thanksgiving Dinner! We had mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, and turkey. It was very delicious. It made me miss home, but it was a fine substitute. We went back Friday and I had a delicious bacon cheese burger. Tomorrow (Sunday) is Brian’s birthday and we are off for more Mexican! It has been a good few days for delicious food.