After a three week hiatus, my private student came to our lesson prepared to resume our conversation on the good points of being Japanese…at least he said so.
At the same cafe in Yokohama…
Me: So, let’s get started…
Student: Wait! I want to answer your question from before…
Me: What question?
Student: About Japanese culture…
Me: Oh? You asked your wife?
Student: Well, un, demo (student pulls out printouts of a book on Japanese culture written by a famous Japanese scholar) I have the answer here.
Me: That’s not your answer…that’s the scholar’s answer. I just wanted to know your opinion. Regular everyday people. Man on the street…you know?
Student: hai hai hai, demo…before I could give you my opinion I need to see other people’s opinions.
Me: That kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?
Me: For example…if you had asked me…in my opinion, what is a good point of being American, I would say something like the majority of at least the voters in my country are able to see beyond skin color and elect a candidate for the content of his character…You follow me?
Student: I think so…
Me: And a bad point would be American self-righteousness. Too many Americans believe America is an unquestionable force for good in the world…when in many cases it’s just not true. This is my opinion! A scholar might have a different opinion.
Student: Wakarimashita… (begins shoveling the printouts back into his briefcase) Muzukashii desu ne. (This is difficult)
Me: Sou desu yo ne (It sure is). Anyway, what did your wife say?
Student! Ee? Nan dakke (what was it she said?)…she says Japanese handle ladies rudely…
Me: This is not a good point, right?
Student: I don’t think so. (Scratches his head) We don’t have a ladies first culture.
Me: You don’t say.
Student: Honto ni! (really) We should to be like gentleman…she says.
Me: Why? That’s not traditional Japanese culture, is it? I mean, Samurai certainly weren’t ladies first. Chivalry is a European idea, isn’t it?
Student: Chivalry wa nan desuka?
Me: Chivalry is ladies first culture…
Student: Ah sou desuka. Japanese feel European culture is more…nan darou… more advanced. Fashion toka, manners toka… My wife say so too.
Me: I see. Is cultural envy a good point?
Student: Good point Janai deshou…AHHHHH! (Scratches head vigorously)
Me: Anyway, let’s start the lesson. It’s getting late.