Every now and then, I am baffled at what daily life in Japan throws at me. Whether it’s witnessing co-workers brushing their teeth at their desk, or watching other teachers use rulers and white-out to make handouts, instead of using the computer. Yes, Japanese culture can seem quite different than American culture at times. However, for every minor annoyance, there is always a positive cultural treat. Like having teachers bring in homemade sweets, or gifts from places they visited. And that’s why I came here. I wanted to expose myself to a totally new way of thinking, as I believe there is a lot to learn from immersing yourself in a foreign country.
However, yesterday tops the list of, “What the %&$#@*! ONLY IN JAPAN.” Let me explain…
It all started after school during the cleaning period. Everyday after all the classes, students clean for fifty minutes. This is a pretty cool concept, as it teaches students to work together, while making them take pride in their school. It also eliminates the need for custodians.
Since I spent most the day cooped up in the teachers office, I asked if I could help clean. Now, I tried to clean at my other school, but for some reason they wouldn’t let me. Luckily, this school was fine with me volunteering.
The Japanese English teacher told me I could clean the windows, and handed me a bottle of window cleaner. When I asked for a towel he replied, “Just use the newspaper over there.”
“Wouldn’t this get the newspaper ink on the windows?” I asked. He looked at me like it is completely normal to used newspaper, instead of towels when it comes to cleaning windows. So, we went into the hallway, crumpled up some paper, and went to town.
“Iwaya Chūgakkō (the name of the junior high school) is really a sweat shop,” he said. We both shared a laugh, and he soon left me on my own with the bottle of cleaning solution and that day’s newspaper.
After going through a few sheets of paper from the sports section, I reached down to pick up the next page to crumple. As I pulled the page out, something caught my eye. Rather, somethingS caught my eye. To my surprise, it was a full on color picture of a big set of taddies. And it wasn’t just one picture. There were a few spread over a couple pages. Surely, this couldn’t be in the back of the sports section in the daily newspaper!
But, it was. I stood there in disbelief, just thinking, “Right now, I’m washing windows with pornographic newspaper. Is this really happening?” Once I realized that this was indeed reality, I quickly covered up the pictures so the students wouldn’t see. But maybe it’s not a big deal to them. After all, if it’s in the regular newspaper, they must already know about it, right?
So, in a sense, I was cleaning away the sins of the newspaper, while cleaning the window panes. I’d say that’s pretty efficient. There are many things in Japan that I can’t explain. But this definitely takes the cake. I tell you, you just can’t make this stuff up if you tried!