Your rank in a workplace is really a big deal in Japan. From what I understand it is based on the following things: your actual age, number of years with the company, number of years within the field. I am not sure the “weight” each of these carry, but if I had to guess it would be most important years with that company, then age, than in the field. Unofficially, your sex plays a big deal too. Guess which sex is preferred?
Anyways the last week we had a student teacher at the school. They pretty much just throw these poor saps into the water and let the sharks have a field day. The student teacher was talking to me and being incredibly apologetic about me reading things. She was saying things like, “Is it okay if you read this part?” So finally I told her, “Just tell me what to do, it is okay. You are my boss.” When I said “boss” her eyes got very big and she said, “Oh no!” See I outrank her in every respect. I am older, I have been a teacher longer, I have been at Tanigawa longer, and I got her unofficially as well -- I’m a guy and she’s not! So the idea that she was my “boss” was very embracing to her. Oh well.
So my third grade student’s are learning “Have you ever ~?” My teacher asks me some pretty standard questions. Have you ever been to Hokkaido? No, I have not. Have you ever read a book? Yes, I have. Then we open it up to the students. The kids usually do not provide anything. Then he asked me if I have ever kissed a girlfriend. This sets up a rather difficult dilemma.
On the one hand I believe that by marginalizing ideas on relationships and sexual acts (which kissing counts), kids end up not knowing and making bad decisions. It is important to give the information straight and not be embarrassed or let moral zealotry (on either side of the argument) get in the way.
At the same time, I don’t want my kids to think of ME as a sexual entity! If they thought that I reproduced by budding, that would be fine with me. I don’t care if they think that if I failed to get my haircut long enough a new Andrew would grow amongst my curly locks, fall off the side of my head, and scamper away into the world to become their next Tanigawa teacher. The problem is compounded by the fact that Japan has different ideas on sexuality. I try and respect those, as I am a guest in the country, but they do challenge many of my notions on the topic. For example, I am pretty sure the age of consent is 14 years old. It is also not uncommon for men to be far older than women in relationships. Some of my kids (most between 12-16 years old) claim they are dating college kids. Which, if true, makes me want to have a little chat with these college kids… with no one around… in a dark alley… and lead pipe. I am only 2-3 years older than a college kid myself, so some of the girls at my school view me as “dateable”. Aladfsafkjsad;f. Sorry, that typing outburst was the slow painful shiver running up my spine, causing me to randomly pound keys.
I ended up telling the truth and saying yes. This was met to thunderous squeals of delight… we repeated this in each class.