As a foreigner in Japan you realize there are two main classification groups here—Japanese or non- Japanese. This means that non-Japanese people do not have access to certain things in Japan—which means you might not get invited to a few things or you aren’t welcome in an establishment. While this can be a troubling concept to a foreigner living in Japan, I’ve learned to accept it. Being excluded is not anything new for me given my own experiences in the United States, . In 6 out of the 7 schools I attend I feel just like I’m classified—like an outsider. While I have a desk in the office and everyone greets me, I still feel out of place. Not that I’m trying to ‘become Japanese’ ( that’s just physically impossible). But, I think it’s one thing to visually stick out like a sore thumb and another thing when you actually FEEL like the sore thumb. There’s nothing anyone said. It’s solely based on how I’ve notice people interact with me at my schools. Most of the time, I feel a lot of tension between us. Given the fact that we both have a small command of the other person’s native tongue, I can understand a little bit why there’s tension. But, if the scholars conclude that the majority og human interaction is non-verbal there HAS to be a reason why there’s tension. My only conclusion that makes sense is I’m a foreigner so I’m approached as such (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that). People tend to be more careful with how they interact with me. It almost appears that they are scared of me or something. There’s absolutely nothing about me that’s intimidating, yet people are quite hesitant when they approach me. A lot of it has to do with the language barrier. Because of the tension between us, I’m not invited to school events or work parties. Most of the time, I have no idea about what’s going on in the office or the school. All of this is completely ok with me but noticing this allowed me to point on the reasons I loved one of my schools. The 7th school.
Suehiro Elementary School is a very small school. I think it has a total of 20 students, 1-6th grade. My English class has six students and I love it. I only visit this school twice a month but those are some of the best days out of the month. Not only are the students energetic ( they always scream help when I walk pass their class) but the teachers are just as excited. The teachers are so friendly and do not hesitant to engage in conversation. Even though we don’t speak the same language, it’s fun making gestures and then laughing at how silly we look doing it. One woman in the office ( I think she’s the lunch lady) never gives up on trying to get me to eat the school lunch. I normally bring my lunch to school/buy at store because I do not want to waste food if I can’t eat something that day. Every time I enter the office, it 100% chance that the lunch lady will approach me about the school menu. She knows I don’t eat pork or beef, so when it’s a fish or chicken day, she’s so excited to share the menu with me. Most times, she’s quite successful in her endeavors and then asks me if I enjoyed the meal . She definitely makes sure I’m taken care of at the school…to the point where I expect to go home with a bag of fruits or vegetables every time. Outside of meals, she’s asks me about driving in Japan ,the winter weather or my health. I’d go as far as to call her the mother of the office.
The secretary who sits diagonal from me speaks a little English. On my first day, I needed to buy lunch. She drove me to the convenient store and pointed out all the chicken and fish meals. One day, we were eating chestnuts in the office ( this places always seems to have food that’s grown and freshly picked by the ‘janitor’ in the office). She asked me what they were in English and then I proceed to introduce her to the song “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”. Judging by their facial expressions, the people in the office enjoyed the song. Later, she asked me about my favorite artist. I told her India Arie. To my surprise, she knew who she was. Actually, she said she liked her too and youtubed her favorite song. (by the way she definitely won some cool points for that one)
There’s this warm feeling I get when I enter the classroom area. As soon as the students see me, they greet me with a burst of energy. Sometimes, they follow me around, hang on to me, mimic me, and try to ask me questions. One student likes to teach me Japanese words. I just feel so much love when I’m at Suehiro and a part of their community. They are excited to invite me to their school events and activities. In fact, it’s the only school that has invited me to any of their events—music competition, school festival, and mochi ( rice cake) making. It’s such a pleasant environment. I wish everyday was a Suehiro day.