Yesterday the Kimiga Elementary school kicked my ass. I thought for sure it'd be easier than the Edosaki elementary school, because it's student population is smaller, but it was hard. Early on in the day, I wanted to just start speaking in English and let everyone just deal with it.
Kimiga is way out in the country. I'm talking like I think I saw some paper walled houses (just kidding). The entire student body, from first to sixth grade, is 79 students. No kidding. I thought it would be a cinch, having real small classes to work with, but only two out of five classes were any fun. The second and third graders were mainly puzzled and looked like they were suspicious of me. The fifth grade were just badly behaved and their teacher thought it was just funny. That was strange for me to see because not in any other place or any other classroom in Japan have the students been badly behaved. Usually they are excessively well mannered. But some of the fifth graders at Kimiga made me think they had grown up in America.
At any rate, the teachers were nice and all, but spoke almost no English. One or two of them had a little. But of course it was the ones who can't speak a lick of it that actually want to talk a lot to me. So they stand at my desk and rattle on, not even speaking slowly for me, then stop and look at me with expectant smiles. Two older obasans were trying to fix me up with a 27 year old second grade teacher, I think, from what I was able to make out. And speaking of Obasans, Japan is the only place in the world where I've seen middle aged and elderly women wearing housecoats and nineteen fifties looking aprons while they ride down the street on their mopeds and motorbikes. Somehow that image is very buoying to my spirits.
I've been working on a story since a week or so after I got here, and reading too. The first book I read was Kawabata's House of the Sleeping Beauties, which is marvelous. He's like a Japanese Kafka in that collection. Then I read Banana Yoshimoto's Asleep, which actually has a lot of connections, I think, to Kawabata's collection, and strangely I picked them up at the same time. Yoshimoto is decent, but awkward and I don't know if it's the translator's fault or if her stories would feel slightly dumb at times as they do in english. Kawabata's didn't feel dumb at all, but it's hard to tell. I just finished reading Like the Red Panda, by Andrea Siegel, and wow, what a heartbreaker. That ending is relentless. If you like coming of age novels, you have to read this one. Have to. Next up is Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, which I started last night and love already, and after that is Mishima's Confessions of a Mask.
It's hard to get English language books where I'm living. I have to go into Tsukuba City to their university bookstore to have just a very small selection. In Tokyo, Tower Records has a whole floor, I guess, but I haven't gone back to Tokyo since my last visit yet. Probably I will have to do that very soon.
I will probably have more photos to put up in a couple of days. Other than that, things are starting to settle here, slowly but surely.