September 02, 2005

Form Without Content

One has lost count of how many times the Japanese's punctilious obsession with detail, when it comes to formal matters, has disturbed me to the point of an ambiguous, enraged laughter. Take the 自己紹介, jikoshoukai, or self-introduction. This morning, some alumni of my high school arrived fresh from their highly rigorous university study (more subdued and disturbed laughter, if not tears, here on this issue as well) to shadow teachers around for a day. They MUST, as mandated by a Japanese code of business etiquette, give a self-introduction. What makes the scene farcical, if not just sad, is listening to four different teachers check with these two COLLEGE students about whether or not they can say their name, place of study, and stand here, no here, no there. "Can you say your name? Stand here, ok?" x 4 = something a bit ridiculous. One would be led to believe that these two young adults were not competent enough to be able to state their name and current place of residence in formal Japanese. One would also be right. After much fear and trembling, the young woman holding the microphone stumbled over her name and the word "Shizuoka Daigaku," which is the name of her college. After all that attention to detail, it goes to waste. But no one really cares about the quality of the jikoshoukai anyways, or about the signfied content. There is only the form. As long as it's there, who cares about what really happens.

Then, in my prolonged, agonizing ramble concerning this matter, there is the most recent issue (brought up in the last 15 minutes) of taking nenkyu during the school year. I have read the same contract 3 years in a row, and in no place does it state something to the effect of: "ALT may not request nenkyu for travel abroad during the school term." Of course, I can take all the nenkyu I want if I am in Japan. Heck, I could spend a month in Okinawa for all they're concerned, as long as I don't go "outside." It beats me that they leave out a very important detail like this, one which is in my interest but perhaps means nothing to them (as I do).

Anyway, my rant is over. I really hope that you haven't made it this far, but if you want to know the denoumet to this conflict, my supervisor, Kaino sensei, the coolest Japanese teacher of English on the planet, has worked the system so that I can go to Korea. So perhaps I will be off eating kimchee (and hopefully not dog) somewhere in the mountains near Pusan.

I am beginning to think I am not wanted here by the teachers. Still, I feel close to the students. Am I right to feel this, or just have problems with being subjected to unreasonably and comically exaggerated excercises of authority? I sometimes think of Yosemite Sam and my Kocho Sensei in the same oversized shoes. I am, of course, no Bugs Bunny.

2 Comments:

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