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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Corporal Punishment In Japanese Schools

I'm going to post a blog written by a friend of mine that I have never physically met, named Peter Able. He writes the informative Living and Teaching in Japan blog.

I know some of you aren't as keen to read blogs not written by me, but this particular blog of Peter's that I am going to link to bears a read. I even posted a comment under it, as you can read about the frustration us teachers in Japan often felt.


Poor Peter... it sounds like he was teaching by himself, and not with a Japanese teacher of English.

Read it and then come back here. Or read this and then go there... but read both.

A little clarification is in order as well, regarding my comment below his blog. I was at Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko (Kaneda North Junior High School) that seems like it is full of juvenile delinquents. Of course it wasn't, but it had far more than it's fair share of kids who were not interested in learning or listening and were robbing the opportunity from kids that DID want to learn.

I was between classes, and the hallway was filled with students in grades 7 through 9.

I'm no longer sure if I was already having a bad day, but this one Grade 9, 15-year-old kid who was taller and heavier than me (true) walked up to me and tried to kick me in the nuts. I was 27 at the time, and even now at 47 years of age, I won't take that crap from anyone who should know better. And he did. It was meant to hurt and to make himself look like the BMOC (Big Man on Campus).

These kids know lots of martial arts - learn them at school club. I'm unsure if he was a judo student or kendo or in the glee club (unlikely), but he didn't kick me in the exact right place. So while I was hurt, I was able to quickly get furious rather than lie on the ground puking in a squeaky voice.

As he walked away laughing with his gang of friends, I quickly turned after him and put him in a choke hold and leaned back. I purposely put my body sideways up into the flat of his back so that if he tried to kick me, he'd get nothing but the side of my leg.

I screamed at him using all of the Japanese swear words I know - which was apparently a hell of a lot and held him for about 15 seconds until he stopped struggling, and then tossed him aside - but not hard enough for him to fall.

He turned and looked at me with fear in his eyes, dropped to his knees and prostrated himself bowing in apology.

I let him do that for 10 seconds while the shock of what I had done washed over me. I felt sick.

But when I glanced around, I saw several students smile at me and give me the thumb's up I had taught them.

Their bully was dead. Long live the gaijin.

I helped the bully up... we bowed to each other, and he apologizes - in ENGLISH!!! - to me. We shook hands, he turned and walked away. His friends came running up beside him chattering, but he said nothing.

Other students crowded around me like I was a demi-god.

Now all I wanted to do was run away somewhere and puke.

But I couldn't. I had three classes to teach.

That kid was in my 2nd class. He looked at me from his desk, bowed his head. I bowed back. We both smiled, and the whole class exhaled. He pulled out his English New Horizon's text book and calmly awaited the arrival of the Japanese teacher of English who would be teaching with me. We all had a great class, and the kid, to his credit, volunteered a few answers.

A month later when I returned to that school, he came up to me and offered me some baseball cards as a gift, I bowed, said thank-you, accepted them, and he left to go to a classroom.

One of the English teachers came up to me with the school's principal beside him. The principal began talking to me in English. The English teacher translated to me explaining that my treatment of the student - that boy - helped change the culture of the school. The boy was now studying hard and was doing well.

The boy also had a stern talking to by various teachers, and I was told that his parents were informed of everything... no one had asked me. Not even the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) for whom I work. But... everyone knew. I suppose the others students told.

I still feel like crap 20 years later. The only satisfaction I get is the hope that that kid made more correct decisions and has made something good with his life.

Did I do the right thing? No. But, do the ends justify the means? In this case, I hope so.

Somewhere puking,
Andrew Joseph      


  1. Hey there, Andrew.

    Sorry to hear about this; I wouldn't have taken a kick in the balls lying down, either, and I think you did what you could to defend yourself.

    I do hope this kid's change of heart was permanent, though. Sounds like you were a real good influence on everybody, including him. =)


    -Steve L.

    1. Hey Steve... thanks. Y'know... you open yourself up to a world of who knows what when you write about stuff like this... I appreciate your words of support. But it is scary to see how one can lose it... I think that the kid may have got the shock of his life knowing that an adult COULD kill him for being a dink... and maybe this time his parents found out about what we did to each other and set things right... there's always stuff behind the scene that we (in any language or culture) will never truly discover... Thanks again... I hope I made a difference.