This morning I made porridge in a frying pan. It actually cooked much better than in a pot. All my non-combustibles, including the pot, went out in the last Wednesday gomi collection of the month. I only kept the frying pan because a chum wants it. I am now living in an empty apartment.
Until yesterday I did have a chair but when I looked on the council website how much it would cost to put it out for the gomi, it said 1,000 Yen (about a fiver). So instead I went to the 100 Yen shop and bought a saw. There were two types of saw: the hand saw and the family saw. The family saw definitely looked sharper so I bought that. Then I came home and sawed the legs off the chair. It’s a nice Muji chair. All the time I was doing it I was thinking of the people who might really like a Muji chair. But, as I have said before, there are no charity shops in Japan so I couldn’t give it away. It’s a really sturdy chair too, as I found out. I ran out of puff before I could saw the back off the seat. I’ll do that tonight. Also the saw is beginning to go blunt. I really don’t believe that you could saw up a whole family with it.
This week I interviewed another celebrant before hitting the book and coffee shops of Shinjuku one last time. All this walking is keeping me fit. At Shinjuku I saw my train approaching and I sprinted 200 metres along the platform in the heat and humidity to catch it. I made it without a struggle. But then someone had thrown themselves under the train ahead so we were stuck at Shinjuku for a further 7 minutes.
On Wednesday we had the usual meetings. On Thursday, we did review quizzes in both Intercult classes and then I had dinner with some Japanese and foreign female academics. These dinners are always interesting because women, being outside the conservative, male-dominated Japanese system, always have interesting things to say and stories to tell. Mainly about how they were passed over for jobs in favour of male professors’ students. We were 12 floors up at a restaurant in Shinjuku and half way through the evening, there was a sudden crack of thunder, a flash of lightening and it began to pour with rain. As the lightening reflected off the skyscrapers I knew that this would be something I would miss. Tokyo’s futuristic neon life. Luckily the rain had stopped by the time I went home but the night was cooler (25 degrees) so I didn’t need to use the aircon.
On Friday, we had the final exams in both writing classes. Whilst the students wrote, I read their journals and the reports that they had submitted after talking to the foreign students in our university’s chat lounge. This is a compulsory element of several courses otherwise the students are too scared to go.
I also sat down with the Japanese man who will take over my writing classes. I said that the students’ main problem was that their writing was so vague and meaningless. But he reminded me that this was an important aspect of Japanese culture. To say clearly what you want or believe is considered childish in Japan. You must instead use vague language to ‘suggest the possibility’ of something without seeming pushy or overbearing. Even Japanese academic essays tend to argue both sides of a case and then hint at the possibility of which one ‘may be’ correct. This is how I know when a student is writing in the English language but channelling Japanese linguistic culture, if they litter their essay with ‘maybes’ and ‘I don’t really know but…’
Of course it works the other way in the West. We freely give our opinions on any number of topics, even those about which we obviously know very little. It is considered childish not to be well-informed.
In the 3rd-year seminar, we began a discussion on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Then I told them that my replacement would be coming to our class next week. I did the same in the 4th-year seminar. Also, the 4th-year students handed in their theses – what they have written so far – so that I can mark and grade them before I leave.
On Friday evening, for the first (and last) time ever, I went out for a drink with two colleagues from work. That is, informal drinking at the pub, not the official Japanese office parties with a set charge, endless speeches and compulsory ‘star turns’ from each teacher. Those events are hideously appalling and I have not yet recovered from the sight of one lecturer doing his ‘Elvis Presley’ at my official welcome party 4 and a half years ago. Such spectacles are supposed to represent that one is a team player. I am not. But it was nice to go out and sink a few G&T’s at the Hub after work.
Now it is Saturday and it has taken me all day to grade the writing exams. Next up, the theses…