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Friday, August 19, 2011

Highway Star

Have you ever wondered what is on the mind  of the average Japanese junior high school kid besides sex?

I did. Back on March 3, 1992 I decided to ask the 2-1 class (Grade 8 kids) of Chikasono Chu Gakko (Chikasono Junior High School - the name Chikasono apparently mans: chika = parent and sono = garden).

Chikasono is a district within the city of Ohtawara (Ohtawara-shi), in Tochigi Prefecture (Tochigi-ken) here in Japan.

The school is an old school, constructed of wood and filled with kids whose parents are rice farmers. They aren't rich - except in the things that count, like friendliness, effort... neat stuff like that. They weren't pretentious... they just seemed... honest.

Question one: What do you know about Canada? I only wanted a one word answer prefaced with: Canada is...

It's a fair question, considering that is where I am from - Toronto, in fact, before coming to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme as an assistant English teacher in late July of 1990.

Most kids of the 19 kids in this class answered that Canada is big, or that it is cold.
Five of the kids provided the individual answers of: small, skiiing, salmon, bears, and pine trees.

While four of those last five answers aren't grammatically correct - they are thoughtful. The one that was grammatically correct, however, was just plain wrong. Perhaps he got mixed up between 'big' and 'small'.

Whatever. There are no wrong answers as long as you try your best. I do offer advice, however, that Canada is a lot larger than most countries in the world... and leave it at that.

One of his classmates leaned over and smacked him on the back of his head and told him that Canada is very large. The shocked look on the boy who got hit just told me that he isn't very good with geography, though his English wasn't bad. Therefore, should he accidentally make it out to Canada one day, he may be able to communicate well enough.

Question #2: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A classic question. Heck... back in 1992, I had no idea what I wanted to be, and I was 27 years-old at the time of the question. Still... I recall being in grade school and high school and still thinking big with such ridiculous occupations (for me) as astronaut, archeologist (because I liked science), and the less likely zoologist (by the time I survived high school I realized that science did not like me).

Nineteen people surveyed - here are their answers in no particular order (and yes, I did write down their responses for use one day - like today!):
- teacher;
- pilot;
- doctor;
- scientist;
- (two) kindergarten teacher;
- animal doctor;
- high school teacher;
- artist (painting, all mediums);
- actor (in a Japanese samurai drama);
- Supercar (while this elicited lots of laughs, I can only assume it was the early 1960s puppet (Supermarionation / string and radio-controlled puppets) show on TV that must have been in re-runs);
- koko seibushi (this was answered in Japanese, and I don't blame him... it means: airplane maintenance worker);
- architect;
- bank clerk;
- iron sculptor;
- construction worker;
- factory worker at a car plant;
- (two) nothing.

I have to admire the two who said 'nothing'... that's what I would do if I could afford it. My dad was already retired a few years before he was the age I am now in 2011 (46). 

But check out the serious responses. Just a construction worker or a bank clerk? You see, those kids already realized they weren't super smart and weren't going to a great high school or a great university. At the age of 13, they were already resigned to a life  many of us would consider unglamorous. There's nothing wrong with those professions... but is that the best they could dream after their original dreams were shattered... or was it likely that their parents did those jobs and were simply emulating them?

And what about the kid who wanted to work at a car plant? That was smart! A job for life! As for the rest of them... interesting... and I bet not too different from our own...

... except for the kid who wants to be a puppet.

And then I remembered that Supercar was a car that could not only travel on land, but on the sea and could fly as well! It meant that it could undertake all sorts of cool adventures like travel to the depths of the Earth, beyond Earth into space... it was a car full of adventure waiting to happen.

Maybe that kid had it right all along. Supercar.

Somewhere wishing I was a Supercar,
Andrew Joseph 
Today's blog title is by Deep Purple: MACHINE HEAD. Notice that the writing at the beginning of the video is in Japanese! What luck!

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