Monday, November 03, 2003

Town culture festival was this weekend. Among the art displayed was various wood carving stamps created by the junior high school students.
These stamps featured calligraphy that the students had carved into the wood, and then stamped onto a piece of paper. Many of them are very elaborate and beautiful Chinese characters. (Japan also uses the Chinese characters in their writing system). Some are a little more simply done, which I can really dig because that would have been me if I was a Japanese junior high school student.
And then there are a couple more interesting ones. One reads "I am a pervert." The other one says, "today, sex."
There's a saying that the longer you've been in Japan, the less you understand it. I'm somewhat inclined towards this view, so I'm not going to pretend I understand exactly what the limits of artistic freedom in the Junior high school are, but I certainly couldn't have gotten away with that in my school days. Although granted my education at a fundamentalist Christian school was probably a little bit stricter than most. I still remember in 8th grade a fight one of my classmates had with the art teacher over the words "party on." My classmate wanted to insert the words in her painting, but the art teacher told her "Christians don't say 'party on'".
So I guess it's hard to get stricter than that, but in Japan the limits do seem to be a bit more flexible. That would certainly explain the "dog taking a crap" theme that is present in a lot of the elementary school art that is also being displayed at the culture festival. I suspect one kid had the idea, and the rest just copied it. Or perhaps this is a common theme every year. Nonetheless, I think my elementary art teacher would have put a stop to it.
But getting back to the wood carvings. Apparently the limits are different, but I imagine the art teacher wasn't overjoyed to see it.
"So, Yosuke, what are we working on here? "
"You realize this is going up on display in the town festival? Everyone is going to see it?"
Sigh again.
"Okay, fine, whatever Yosuke."
I imagine it went something like that.
And on a similar theme: this is something that is actually dated from graduation this spring, but I only just noticed it while walking around the school on Friday (see previous post, I had a lot of spare time on Friday to look around the school and read things). The outgoing 6th grade students, who were entering Junior high school, each wrote a little touching tribute to their parents in the school newspaper. Next to each kid's smiling picture was a little note saying something like, "Mother, thank you for always encouraging me. I'm sorry I didn't study as hard as you wanted me too, but I'm going to do my best in Junior high school. Father, thank you for always teaching me how to be strong." Something touching like that.
But one kid wrote in his space, "Father, cigarettes are bad for your body. Please stop smoking so much. Mother, I'm sorry I didn't always listen to you." What was funny was that I knew the kid, and he had a pretty serious personality, so I doubt he was just taking the piss.
It made me laugh a bit on Friday. Imagine being that kid's father, opening the school paper to eagerly see what words of thanks his son had written him, and then finding that. And then at the next PTA meeting, having to put up with all those, "Hey, I read in the school paper you've been smoking a bit again, eh? How's that going?" comments.
So I had a little quiet laugh to myself reading this. When I saw the kid that afternoon in the hallway, I was tempted to ask him how his father's smoking was going, but I thought it might be perceived as making fun of him, and it was probably a little unprofessional to mock my students. I did point it out to some of the other teachers in the staff room, but to my disappointment, no one else found it as funny as me. "Does his father smoke a lot?" I asked one of the other teachers.
She read the paper, assumed a thoughtful position, and said, "hmmm, apparently."

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