When I quit being an English teacher, I sort of figured I’d never have another occasion to enter a Japanese junior or senior high school again. Yes, kids of my own may be looming on the horizon, but as I’ve said before, I refuse to let any offspring of mine so much as set foot in a Japanese junior high school. …If you’re wondering why, just thumb through the archives for a little while, I’m sure you’ll see why fairly soon. So with me planning to move my own kids back to America before even getting to JHS, I figured that my very last class would be the last time I’d ever be in a Japanese school.
But as life loves to remind one, never say never.
Japanese high schools usually hold a “School Festival” day, where the students make shops, exhibits, put on shows and performances, etc. Sort of in the spirit of the Culture Festival held in junior high school, but a little bit more involved. As I was a JHS teacher, I never got to go to any HS school festivals; my only knowledge of them came from what I’d seen on TV and in anime and what not. However, I went to my first one a few weeks ago. Why? I received an invitation from Moeko to go to her high school’s festival day. I hadn’t seen her in a while, I had nothing else going on that day, and the HS is a 10 minute bike ride from where I live, so there was really no reason not to go.
I showed up on the morning of the festival and Moeko came out to the gate to give me my ticket. I hadn’t seen her in over two, almost three years, but she really hasn’t changed much. Maybe gotten a little taller, that’s about it. As a high school sannensei, her class was going to be working a food booth. As such, she was busy with preparations and couldn’t really hang around with me, so I wandered around the school by myself checking out the various events. As I took off my shoes at the entrance, it occurred to me that for the first time in over two years, Az-sensei was back.
…Is that Kancho Sense™ that’s tingling?
…Nah. This is a high school, not to mention that I wasn’t these kids regular teacher, so it would have been pretty rare/exceptional for me to have been exposed to any Kancho or Dick-Dodging incidents of my past.
First I paid the ninsensei floor a visit. The ninsensei have to put on some kind of show/exhibit within the confines of their own floor and classrooms, so with these constraints they usually end up doing haunted houses or coffee shops. One group of boys, highly interested in my presence though, invited me to come to their class. They’d made a firing range. They constructed all sorts of rubber-band guns and rifles out of chopsticks, and had set up various targets around the room for guests to shoot at and potentially win prizes for hitting the mark. …Again, here is that Japanese ingenuity that’s remarkable at the JHS and SHS level, but somehow gets soul-sucked out of them when they become members of the Japanese workforce.
As I take a chopstick rifle and aim at a target, I hear one boy say in the background – “Uh-oh, this could be trouble. Is this guy American? He looks American. I bet you he’s going to hit every target.” Because, you know, we Americans all own guns and are expert marksmen and stuff. …Ah, blunt, candid outbursts – how I’ve missed you so. Turns out the boy didn’t have to worry much, as I only hit a few of the targets, which was enough for a few pieces of candy.
As I was taking aim, a few girls came up behind me, also curious about me. They wanted to talk to me, but as usual, had no confidence in their English abilities. With my old JHS students, I spoke with them plenty in Japanese. But sometimes, I like to hide the fact that I understand Japanese, especially in new situations such as these. While it is potentially a wasted opportunity to interact with the youth of Japan…for me its incredibly fun to get to hear what people are saying about me when they don’t think I can understand. One thing I love to do though, is to actually answer questions that have been asked in Japanese, in English. Now, one might assume that, despite me answering the question in English, the fact that I understood the question at all shows at least some level of Japanese comprehension. One might assume that…but for the vast majority of Japanese people, they just don’t get it. These girls were no exception.
Girl (Japanese): I wonder who he is and where he’s from. I’d at least like to know his name.
Me (Turning Around, English): My name is Az.
Girl (E): Oh! Nice to meet you Az. My name is (whatever it was, forgot already).
Me (E): Nice to meet you.
Girl (J): Well, I could do a greeting at least. But I don’t know enough English for anything else.
Me (E): Aw, c’mon…you’re a high school ninensei, right? You can do a basic conversation, right?
Girl (J): Its different…I mean, in class we practice with other teachers and students, all Japanese. But you’re the real deal! It makes me nervous.
Me (E): You don’t have to be nervous. This is a good experience!
Girl (J): Well, I guess so. (To her friends): I just wish I could actually communicate with him more.
I have to wonder if maybe its not a delayed reaction. Like maybe a week later she was just sitting in the middle of class and all of a sudden thought…
Girl: Hey, waitaminute! I was talking in Japanese but he was understanding what I was saying!!
Speaking of high school girls, I thank my Lucky Charms that I wasn’t a high school teacher. Just that day, there were a few girls (just two or three) sort of looking at me and making subtle passes. I had girls who had crushes on me back in junior high school (remember Snuzzlebunnies?), but those were easy to turn down because, well…they’re just kids! In JHS the kids are from 12-15 years old, and that’s just too young no matter how you slice it. But in HS…a ninensei girl will be around 16-17 years old. That’s almost 18. I can’t imagine having the willpower to consistently turn down very cute, more-or-less legal girls over a several year basis. It just goes against my basic male programming, is all. I don’t know what the legal age of consent in Japan is – I’ve heard conflicting reports ranging around 17, to even as low as 13. Not being a Professional Pedo-Bear, I haven’t bothered to look into it. To me, it seems like its only illegal if someone really wants to make a case against you. Since I’m a Gaijin, I’d probably get the death penalty.
Of course, we American men have to be extra super sensitive about the age thing, because American law will prosecute your ass to the full extent of the law if the girl is 17 years, 364 days, 23 hours old. Again, I have no interest in children (I feel that this can’t be said enough), my tastes actually run towards older women. But sometimes you get a hot young girl sniffing at your door, she’s almost old enough, and the fragile male psyche can only take so much. My old roommate in college used to say “if you have doubts about fucking a girl under 18…just fuck two and add em up!” I think he was joking…I hope.
I was talking to another Gaijin guy about this, and he was telling me that if possible, many high schools avoid hiring foreign male English teachers for this very reason. As he put it – “I can’t argue with that, I’d like to say I wouldn’t be tempted but Lord knows I’ve had my weak moments in the past. You know, back in America I’d hear people talking about this Chris Hansen guy and “To Catch A Predator”. I had no idea what it was until I watched an episode one day. I was watching it, and as I sat there, I realized – this man is my enemy.”
Aside from Moeko, I did run into a few other former students of mine. There was a boy in the ninsensei hall who I recognized as one of my former students. He was thrilled that I remembered him, and it also seemed to boost his Cool Points Standing among his peers that his JHS ALT actually remembered him. I also found the little sister of the girl who once said she wanted to kill herself over entrance exams (I think that’s the “My Kids Are Emo” entry…). I’d only been her teacher for half a year, but she’s very, very similar to her older sister so she was easy to remember. She also hadn’t really changed much, except for gaining a few centimeters in height. She helped me to navigate a maze that her class had created.
I also ran into……….Penis Boy! Yes, Penis Boy from the School of Peace. Unlike Moeko or the sister of suicide girl, Penis Boy had changed drastically. He’d been a little runt of a kid when I last saw him, but now he’d grown to an average height, and was now – dare I say it – actually kind of cool. He looked like one of the actors or musicians that Japanese girls go crazy over. I told him he’d grown up and become pretty cool, and he said “Az-sensei, you’ve always been cool.”
I’m sure many of you are wondering if there were any grouping or fondling incidents, but there weren’t. Penis Boy has grown up. It was sort of a startling reminder to me of how quickly life can change in the short span of 2-3 years. Penis Boy very well could have been the male heartthrob of his entire class. I couldn’t help but to wonder about this later on, imagining Penis Boy surrounded by a group of girls…
Girl 1: Hey, we saw you talking with that cool Gaijin that was wondering around.
Girl 2: Do you know him?
PB: Yeah, he was my English teacher back in junior high school.
Girl 3: And he remembered you? Wow! You are so cool! You must have left quite an impression, even in JHS!
PB: Yeah. Not a day went by where I didn’t try to grab his penis. I’m certain he remembers THAT.
I didn’t get to talk to Moeko much, as she was busy with her preparations for her class’s booth. I did manage to find her and say goodbye before leaving. Later by mail, she apologized for not having been a better host. I was just glad she invited me at all. It was kind of fun to become Az-sensei again, even if only for half a day.