Thursday, January 31, 2008

Many many thoughts to share

So life at school has been fairly slow the last couple of weeks so i have had plenty of time to catch up on my reading and thinking. I have been reading a book called Kata. Which is about the Japanese way of doing things, more formally called Shikata. At first it was just the same old stuff i had learnt in my first 6 months here. But after spending some time thinking and talking with my teachers at school, I have learned alot of interesting things.

Before I came here, i had read many books on the general etiquette of Japan but this one tops them all. Two of the most interesting things i learnt include seating arrangement at dinners etc and office arrangement. Sasaki sensei sent several long moments explaining this to me. It depends on where the door is in a Japanese style room, to where the most important guest sits. They have these formal parties called Enkai, and this is most important when attending them. I went to one when i first got here and was sat in the middle near the door. Which i thought meant that i was the least important person. But Sasaki sensei says that they dont think like that. It is the other way, the most important people are seated in the right places and then everyone else can sit where they want. It is a big no no to sit in the wrong place.And the most important person is usually the furtherest from the door. Who knew seating could be so important?

Sasaki sensei just said that this is a very old way of thinking and that people our age dont always worry about it. Such was the case when a group of teachers from school went out for my welcome dinner. We all just sat where we wanted.

And in the office.....whoa this gets complicated. So the manager sits at the front of the room to supervise. Then the table are put in rows with them back to back. This means that everyone can see and hear what is going on. And the section manager has a desk at the top of each of these groups of desks. His assistant sits at one of the front desks. Then based on importance the rest of the team are placed at desks. So i took Sasaki sensei into our teachers room. And we looked at it and i asked questions. Turns out ours is based on homerooms. And the assistant teachers sit closest to the door. Thus the importance factor. Makes sense when u think about it.

I then asked Sasaki sensei how he knew all of this. And he said that most Japanese adults know these things but dont know why they are done like that. All the new things i learn each day just keep stacking up.

I also had a very interesting conversation with many of the teachers in the English Teacher's room at lunchtime. Apparently, they got a small bonus today because the way that their pay is calculated has changed. And the teacher with three children gets more money than anyone else because he gets about $50 a month allowance per child. Now, i dont know if this happens in Australia but i was surprised to hear them talking so freely about money. I asked Gomi sensei some questions later and found out some very interesting facts.

Here is the classic example:
Kawana Sensei is married with three children. He gets $50 extra in his pay per month for each child. He only gets this because his wife doesnt work. If she had a full time job, they wouldnt get the child allowance.

If Kawana Sensei got divorced and his wife remarried and the children lived with his wife. She is still unemployed. Her new husband would get the child subsidy and her ex-husband would still have to pay maintence. He doesnt still get the money and have to hand it over. It changes automatically.

And here is the best part, i could still be living at home with my parents at 25. My mum is unemployed and dad works full time, and i am studying or unemployed and the child allowance continues.

Gomi sensei also talked about the "working poor". Young and old people who earn less than $20,000 a year are unable to survive in Japan. And they are not eligible to get married or have children because they are too poor. AND they arent eligible for government monetary assistance. Which also means that they dont have insurance for health etc.

Another interesting thought came from a lady i met when my parents were visiting. She had been living in Japan for 30 years and was married to a Japanese. BUT had not mastered the language or even tried based on her attitude to it. She said that everyone in the apartment complex knows her and thus she doesnt need the language to buy groceries etc. That was just so strange to me. I have only been here 6 months but I have found it necessary to learn basic everyday Japanese. It is quite strange to me that she could live in a country for that long and not even attempt to learn the language. They obviously had no children as that would present a problem too. She giggled and made a joke about it and i think deep down she was embarrassed about it but still she made no effort. HOW DOES SHE FUNCTION? It must be a very lonely life.

Well that is all for now. Hope you can all understand my ramblings.

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