by Fukuma Fletch
Hair Flap Correspondant
10 (More) Little Things
Here, for your reading pleasure, I present the long awaited and highly anticipated second installment of “The Little Things.” (The first part to this series can be found here. -Scott)
1) The post office. The post office has some good differences and some bad. As for the bad, they keep atrocious hours. I think they’re only open from 10:00 to 4:00 or something absurd like that. The nice, however, is that when a package cannot be delivered to the recipient because they’re not home, you can call the post office and arrange a time for it to be redelivered as late at 9:00 p.m.. That is fairly handy.
2) The Internet is still an extremely small part of day to day life from what I can tell. Very few people have home connections and many people’s email addresses are simply accounts through their cell phones. One reason could be for the ridiculous cost of the Internet. I pay $20 (all amounts will be estimated into dollars) for my ISP, which isn’t that different from some US ISP’s, but in Japan all phone calls are charged on a per minutes basis. So I have to pay the phone company an additional $1 every hour I’m online. So if online an hour a day, I’m paying around $50 a month.
3) The convenience stores over here are fantastic for one amazing reason, OK two reasons. The first reason is because you can pay your bills at the local 7-Eleven. All the bills (phone, power, water, etc.) are coded and can be read by machines at all the convenience stores. I quite like the fact that I can walk one block to an AM-PM or Mini Mart and pay all of my bills for the month. They also sell liquor which, like the name implies, happens to be quite convenient.
4) Another interesting thing about the school systems is that there seems to be no system for any kind of discipline. The students can do whatever they want and, from what I can tell, will never get into any trouble for any of it. There is no such thing as suspension, detention, or anything even like it except for the most grievous of offenses. (Fact: first use of the word ‘grievous’ on Hair Flap. -Scott) If students don’t want to go to class, they will just stand up in the middle of a lecture, start dialing their cell phone, and walk out of class. If a teacher tries to stop them, the student will quite often talk back, and in some rare occasions even hit the teachers in the arm or slap them in the face. This is rather rare, but not as rare as you might think. And the students never get into any trouble.
5) One great thing about my work environment is that sleeping at my desk is perfectly acceptable. If I’m tired, I can just lay my head down on my desk and take a nap, and it’s perfectly acceptable. A “smoking room” equipped with a full set of leather sofas and recliners adjoin our teacher’s room. It’s quite common to find several teachers throughout the day taking twenty-minute naps in between classes. The after lunch nap is quite popular, for obvious reasons. You really have to chow down your food to make sure you get a spot.
6) In Japanese schools, the students all stay in the same classroom and the teachers move around to the different classes. The homeroom classes consist of 35 or 36 kids and these kids are together for every single class the entire year.
7) The intercom music selection at the local supermarket is rather interesting. They seem to have a thing for American Rock n Roll Musac. You haven’t experienced shopping until you’re listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses, “You Could be Mine,” or Aerosmith’s, “Dude Look Likes a Lady,” musac versions, while strolling down the produce aisle.
8) The huge majority of public restrooms, the park kind as well as the restaurant kind, are completely devoid of paper towels, and often of toilet paper as well. It is the individual’s responsibility to carry around tissue paper and a handkerchief. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a bit of a predicament. Napkins can also be hard to come by. I suppose the reasoning is that with chopsticks you should never get your hands dirty anyway. And like in Europe, when you ask for a glass of water, you get about half a shot glass full. After all, why would anyone drink water when you could drink tea?
9) For as polite and cultured as the Japanese society is, would you believe that both chewing with your mouth open and talking with food in your mouth don’t seem to be against the rules? I must say, seeing my immaculately dressed, extremely polite and otherwise genteel principal spitting rice out of his mouth while answering a question is quite a sight.
10) And for the last “little thing” of this edition, did I mention that everything is in Japanese over here?