23 Sep

So, in the last week or so I got a big dose of cultural education, in a few different situations.

We started picking our topics for our semester-long project last week. After bouncing some ideas around in my head, I came up with a really good one. You see, there’s this new religion I studied in class freshman year called Oomotokyou, but since it was a history class I know very little about its current practices. It sounded like the best plan ever, but instead I ended up hitting a very very sensitive subject.

In Japan, there are two main religions: Shinto and Buddhism. However, between the late 1800s and the present, quite a few new religions have sprouted up, and quite a few of them were very unpleasant. For example, the new religion Aum Shinrikyou was behind the 1995 Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subways. Now, my teachers had never heard of Oomotokyou, but because of horrible incidents like these they became very very concerned. Of course, Oomotokyou is nothing like Aum; in fact, as I was browsing their website/mission statement/etc., it felt like the Japanese version of Quakerism (oh, and also the founder of Aikido was a follower back in the day).

Not only were my teachers concerned about my well-being and not-joining-a-cult status, but they were also worried about something that wouldn’t ever have crossed my mind: my connection to the college and my overseas program. If some kind of incident were to go down, it would impact OGU and CET’s reputation. It got to the point where they were checking with the overseas office to see if it was okay, and I ended up having to write a formal letter of request. Finally, my letter was sent to a higher-up at the school, where it was rejected–not on account of any of the above reasons, but because the school has a policy against public demonstration/presentation of any religious or political subject (at the end of the semester we would be doing a public presentation), on the offchance someone from the public might be offended.

But goodness, it’s different from school in the states. I feel like an american professor’s reaction would be, “Oh, okay. Well, be careful”

(By the way, I am still planning on doing some reasearch/visiting the religion on my personal time, so expect a report 🙂 )

Actually, our classes have been really rough on us lately. Basically, we’re having a clash of American versus Japanese educational systems.

For example, a typical class consists of our teacher reading to us and having us repeat, line by line, the reading for the chapter. When we’re done, we’re asked to take turns reading the same passage line by line again, and then asked some comprehension questions. Then we move on to a dialogue: rinse and repeat. In grammar class, we are taught quite a few grammar structures. Then we go back and read examples of said structures. For our kanji quiz, our teacher literally gives us the quiz ahead of time, so we know exactly what is on it and what to study. It’s driving us quite a bit of crazy, because we never get a chance to use what we’ve learned, to pull the concepts out of our brains. We just listen and repeat.

But see, that’s how our teachers learned English, and that’s how things are taught around here. We’ve been talking with the head teacher a lot about it, though, and we’re hoping we can work together with our teachers to make it work better for us. This is one of the benefits of a small program: the material is definitely tailored to our needs. But we really have to work at it.

(On a related note, I changed my topic to English education in Japan, so I’ll have more to say about this later 🙂 )

I also went to an Aikido club meeting last week. It was very challenging on a lot of different levels.

First of all, I had no idea what I was doing or what was going on. It wasn’t a regular class, because people were working on their own and preparing for their upcoming test. One of the club members walked me through some exercises, and then she introduced me to some other students. They looked kind of confused, and there was plenty of tittering and funny looks. Not that they were making fun of me; they just had no idea what to do with me. So they started by pulling me into what they were practicing, Ikkyou. They showed me and then asked me to do it, and I did. They all looked at me funny. “That’s Nikkyou,” one of them explained. Well, it was Ikkyou where I come from.

Anyway, we kept practicing, and they showed me how to do it the way they did in that particular club. Then one of them pulled at my gi and asked if I was wearing a t-shirt underneath. I said, oh no, I just wear a sports bra. They all kind of laughed and were like, but what if your gi flips up? Which is something I’ve never even thought or cared about (it’s never been a problem), but one of the girls lent me a shirt anyway. She also asked if I had water, which I hadn’t managed to get before arriving. I said no and she offered me some of her tea, but not before asking “can you drink tea?” (Yes I can!!!)

No one really spoke English, so there was a lot of confusion. When I said I didn’t understand something they’d repeat it again, the exact same way as the first time and at the same speed. Also, for some reason someone thought I was Russian.

I don’t mean to complain, because they were all really nice to me and included me even though no one was forcing them to. I think I will have fun with the club, but the first practice was really rough. They were just so bemused, and I was befuddled. Especially because I was trying to figure out what politeness level to use.

So, in conclusion, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Now that school is starting we’re falling into a schedule and touring around a lot less, so my posts will probably be fewer and more academic/less touristy. However, you can expect a couple posts a month, because I’m part of a correspondent program with CET.

Hope all is well for everyone!


6 Responses to “他のテーマを選んだ方がいいと思います。”

  1. Russell Murray September 23, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Remind mom and me to tell you our adventures with our Greek Italian teacher in Parma. I’m really sorry that your project was turned down. Sounds like a rough couple of weeks, but you are showing amazing strength. I’ll look forward to your next entry!

  2. Lys Murray September 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I agree with Dad–and I’m impressed that you are actively looking for a constructive solution. You may be in the position of educating the educators, which would be a tremendous win-win for everyone.

    I’m also looking forward to hearing how Aikido progresses; I suspect that it may take awhile to break down the cultural assumptions…what an adventure!

  3. Carole Deily September 26, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    Hi Diane,
    It looks like you are running up against the exact type of cultural clashes your program is designed to provide.
    Remember, When in Rome… Weighing the different customs and points of view is delicate. We Americans can be very confident our way is best. You have been raised to think for yourself, but not everyone has that opportunity.
    I think the akkaido class will turn out to be very valuable, and good to be unofficial. ‘Just thinking…

  4. Phil McClure September 26, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Miss Dianne, I think this is your most interesting entry yet. I went often to the Methodist Church in Kyoto, which was small and about 50/50% Japanese/Gaijin. My impression was that some of the Japanese Christians I met were making a statement that they were not comfortable with what seemed to me the dominant (secular, nontheistic) religion, that of “being Japanese.”

    Japan is less than 1% Christian (Wikipedia says maybe less than 0.5%). In contrast, Korea is over 10% Christian. I would not say that Christianity is one of the top three religions in Japan. I am fascinated by these details, and have more to say than fits here now.

    Living there as a young student must be quite different from my being there as a 51 year old visiting professor. I tried to understand the culture as well as I could. We should compare notes in more depth at some point.

    Regards, Phil

    • ixregardo September 27, 2010 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Phil! I thought the Christian population was a bit more here, but I guess I was wrong!! Anyhow, I’m fixed it in my post 🙂


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