I hate when that happens
No one ever tells me anything around here. I hate that. My wife and children speak Japanese and I speak English, so they just ignore me much of the time. I hate that, too.
On Monday, September 6th my son went on a Grade 5 and 6 school trip to the town of Karuizawa in mountainous Nagano Prefecture. He returned on Wednesday 8th. I didn’t know anything about it until after 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 5thwhen just by chance, while sitting at my computer desk I saw him packing a rucksack.
I correctly anticipated what was happening, so I asked him, “Ken, are you going somewhere tomorrow?” then the story came out.
I asked my wife, “When were you going to tell me about this?”
“I’m telling you.”
I hate that.
Anyway, Karuizawa is for Tokyo kind of what like Muskoka is for Toronto, because it’s kind of a summer resort place. Expensive, too, I imagine. That’s got nothing to do with the school trip, of course. Throughout the country schools rent ski lodges for summer camps to let children get out of the city and into a new environment. I asked Ken what they were doing there and he said just “studying.” So it was not a science or physical education field trip. It was just a chance to study in the countryside and away from school and family for a couple of days.
On the way there on Monday, September 6th they stopped off to see a waterfall called Shiraito Falls, and that night they had a “ghost walk.” The students walked around outside in the dark with flashlights and the teachers jump out from concealed positions in the dark and scared them. Lots of fun!
When he returned home on Wednesday 8th we were having strong rain here from Typhoon No. 9. It was the first time since the end of the Rainy Season in mid-July that Tokyogot any significant rainfall, so it was kind of a good thing. Temperatures lowered from hot to merely warm. The rain felt like standing in a warm shower. Usually typhoons make landfall in Japanon the coastlines that face the open Pacific - the south and the east. But this Typhoon 9 slipped between Korea and Japan and then veered right, making landfall on the back side of the main island of Honshu, from The Japan Sea side in the west. That’s unusual.
Because of the typhoon, the weather was noticeably cooler the following day, Thursday 9th. Often typhoons suck up even more humid air in their wake, so after they pass it is just as hot as it was before. But not this time. It was a welcome relief.
After school on Wednesday, September 8th my daughter went to a concert in Shibuya with her friend, Emily, to see a band called Klaxons. Again, no one told me about it until 7:00 p.m. My wife came home and asked what I wanted for dinner.
“Where’s Emma?” I asked.
“She’s at a concert.”
“In Shibuya. With Emily.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me before?”
“I’m telling you.”
I hate that.
I was looking forward to going to my daughter’s School Festival (“gakuensai”) which is a fall tradition in Japan. Schools have an Open House. Usually because of timing I cannot attend, and it has been a few years since I was able to go to her school’s fair. But this year I was excited when she told me that her festival was on September 23rd (a national public holiday in Japancalled “shunbun no hi,” or Autumnal Equinox Day, for the start of autumn) and Friday 24th. I was free on Friday 24th, so finally I would have a chance to visit the school festival again!
However, it turns out that her festival was on October 23rd and 24th, a weekend, not the dates she told me before and I could not attend. I was angry with her - I was hurt by quashed anticipation - because at the time of our original conversation on the matter I was very clear when I asked her about the date of her festival. I couldn’t possibly be clearer unless I wrote it out on a piece of paper and asked, “Is this right?” or pointed to the date on the calendar (which I did not do, considering it unnecessary after my meticulous oral confirmation). I checked and re-checked orally four timesstraight to her face in clear language, in English and in Japanese. I echoed back to her what she said to me just to make sure I was hearing her correctly. I re-phrased my question to check the consistency of her responses. But it turns out that everything she said was false and wrong by one month. She confirmed and re-confirmed in clear language totally false information. I hate when that happens.
Finally, on the night of Saturday, October 16th Emma stayed overnight at some friend’s house. The girls were practicing something for their school festival on the weekend of October 23rd/24th. But as usual no one told me about it until it was too late. At 7:30 p.m. I asked Junko, “Is Emma coming home for dinner?” because I thought she was still at Nana Matsumura’s house the way she often is.
“She stays at a friend’s house tonight.”
“To get ready for school festival.”
I hate that.
It has happened before when trying to communicate with Japanese, and it has been a problem at my school workplaces. For example, when I am trying to confirm the class schedule, some teachers in the past have confirmed and re-confirmed totally wrong information resulting in my absence when I should be present. I blame them, and they undoubtedly blame me.
Another time, quite recently in fact, I was conducting a Christian wedding ceremony for a couple. When we did the rehearsal one week before the ceremony I confirmed orally and face-to-face all the information, starting with their names. The groom confirmed that his name was “Masato.” My question was very clear and so was his response. It’s a simple question, and there isn’t much room to be wrong about it. But on the day of the ceremony, during the final confirmation about ten minutes before the start of the service, his English-speaking bride said that, no, his name is Masatoshi, not Masato. Ihate when that happens!
I think the problem is 1) Japanese do not listen to foreigners; and, 2) Japanese tend to give affirmative answers to everything in order to cultivate a positive relationship. At least, that’s what they think they are doing. And then ... .