Monday, November 21, 2011

Please Don't Feed the Gaijin

AS part of our regular Japanese language class, twelve of us foreign students studying at the International budo University went to a local elementary school today, where we were put on display like a traveling zoo. The principal welcomed us warmly to the school and explained that the students, who were studying English, had very few opportunities to meet and speak with “gaikokujin” (foreigners). We were then asked to introduce our home countries… in Japanese, of course.

Before coming to Katsuura, I worked for two years within the Japanese education system. Though I worked regularly at a middle school, I had the chance to visit several elementary and high schools. In all honesty, elementary schools in Japan are one of the few places where children are encouraged to be children. From middle school onward, strict Japanese socialization is enforced and students’ creativity and independence are slowly crushed. Nevertheless, it was amusing to see that even third graders must make opening speeches, closing remarks and bow every time someone farts.

“So how does this relate to Budo?” you may be asking yourself. Well, after introducing our countries and teaching the students how to say “hello” and “good morning” in Spanish, English, French, Turkish, Finish, Dutch and Korean…. We were asked to demonstrate our hobbies. Specifically, we were asked to demonstrate Judo, Kendo and Iaido in front of a room full of Japanese children. There was something of the “Hey, look at the foreigner do Japanese culture!” feel about the entire situation. We had an unnecessarily long argument with our Japanese teacher when two people asked if they might demonstrate American Football rather than Judo.

My partner and I did, in fact, demonstrate Judo. In the above photo I have just completed a Haraigoshi throw—sweeping hip throw—and in the photo below you can see a little more of the environment. (For anyone interested, in the following photo I have thrown my partner with Sumigaieshi, a fun throw which involves falling backward and flipping your opponent over. The children quite enjoyed this one.)

Our demonstrations were very short and, afterwards, the children themselves showed us a wide variety of Japanese traditions and games. This was quite interesting as a third grader taught me how to fold an origami crane and paint the kanji for 光 hikari (light).
Finally, we sat down to lunch with the elementary school students. I can’t help but wonder if the children were warned, “Don’t feed the Gaijin,” as we ate the same small meal as the students with one small difference…. We all had to return to the University and begin three hours of training!

No comments:

Post a Comment