Earthquaking & A Japanese High School

So yesterday I woke up with an odd shaking and feeling of wobbliness. I’d originally put it down to me just being plain old knackered (seeing as it was about ten to seven in the morning), but it wasn’t until I went down for breakfast I was told what had really happened.

At roughly that time an earthquake occured in the Fukui Prefecture, and we felt it here in Osaka. Some people at Uni (living in Kobe) also felt the quake. Not a big one mind you, in fact with a lot of people sleeping through it and what appeared to be no mention of it on the news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this never happened. But it did, my first earthquake in Japan and it barely made me budge. Not like the one in Leeds last year. So far I’m two-for-two then.

As part of my Education & Culture class, yesterday we went to a Japanese high school to both ask and be asked questions by students, and also to observe a homeroom period. The only times I’ve seen a Japanese school prior to this were from media resources, and of course they were fictional. Films such as Battle Royale and anime such as Myself, Yourself and Azumanga Daioh, had given me some insight and prior knowledge of what they might be like, but given this comparison you could also claim that you can tell what London’s like just from watching Eastenders.

The school building itself was ironically very reminiscent to those titles mentioned and I found myself liking the building and atmosphere more and more as time went by. It was rustic, there were cracks in the white, (well … dingy grey) walls, and due to a lack of a central heating system it was frickin’ cold, but they were some of the aspects I found quite indearing. Though truth be told I was thankful when we ended up in the AV room and found that it was warm.

Throughout the time there I spoke to four groups of 3-4 students in different environments. The first group took myself and another Konan student for a short tour of the site. Due to us having only ten minutes or so, I can honestly say that it was shorter than a stereotypical Japanese mini-skirt. However in that brief look around we did get to see areas such as the lunch room, sports ground (no grass of course, just gravel … goodluck there football goalies) and some of the class rooms also.

Everyone then re-assembled for a short period of general chatter. As well as finding out the opinions of the high-schoolers about their schools, I also learned a few things about my fellow Konan student.

The next stage of the visit was to break into other groups where we’d be interviewed individually by groups of three students about our experiences in Japan. During my interview sessions with the two groups I came to realise how little I’ve actually accomplished since landing in Japan, especially in comparison to things I’d wanted to. However, this is also countered by doing things that non of the other 留学生 (ryuugakusei, exchange students) have done, like the Okamoto to Juso walk for instance.

The final conversation was in a room with refreshments (woohoo! Fanta and biscuits!) where we chatted with three more students, only this time I was joined by another two Konan students. Again this conversation was quite open so we talked about whatever things popped into our heads. Unfortunately my dead goldfish in a sieve type memory means I can’t remember a lot of the conversation, but I do remember that we discussed that they liked, and were rather proud of, their uniforms, the fact that they’d all been to Taiwan … oh wait, that was the first group … and that there are some teachers they don’t like.

When compared to the UK, Japanese schools are very different, and since the visit I had the liberty of reading a little bit more about them. Unfortunately the only things I read were how they differed from North American schools, but from what I can tell one of the main differences is the number of years of compulsory education. In the UK, starting with infant school (or primary school if your infant & primary school years are combined) you have 11 years of compulsory education, with the option to leave (and hopefully get a job) when you’re 16, unless you were born later in the academic year. However, in Japan you don’t have to start school until you’re six years old, with the option of leaving at the age when British students begin their final year, giving just 9 years of compulsory learning.

Wanting to save myself a tidy 180 yen (£1.33) I chose to walk from the school to Okamoto train station, and put that money to my food on Sunday. The walk took longer than expected by about half an hour or so, but oddly enough I arrived home at the same time as if I’d have stopped in Konan’s Ajisai room until it’s closure at around six.

I’ll end this by saying that I didn’t sleep much last night. I was compelled to watch the end of Higurashi No Naki Koro Ni (Kai) (about 10 episodes I think), which kept me out of bed until about one. By which time I was in such a state of awesomely smily happy joy that even though I went to bed I kept running through various aspects of the story in my mind. Seriously folks, if you must watch any series for the sheer experience, this is the one. Won’t spoil any of it by saying what happens, so maybe I’ll write a review one day.

Oh and in other news I finally found my student ID … in my bag.