Pot-smoking foreign English teacher
On Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - my first day back at full-time day time work in the New Year - the principal of my school seemed a little sheepish about having to present me with the following letter, warning foreign Assistant English Teachers (ALTs) that marijuana is illegal in this country and therefore not only a dereliction of our duty to be proper role models to our teenaged students, but a crime warranting the cancellation of our work contracts. It doesn’t matter if marijuana is a legal, or at least a decriminalized drug in some countries like Canada, Holland, and certain parts of the U.S.A. - a state of affairs both reflecting and encouraging a lax disposition towards cannabis. What matters is that it is illegal in Japan, and the Japanese make little distinction between ‘soft’ drugs and ‘hard’ drugs. I mean in the Japanese imagination marijuana and heroin share an equal infamy.
The school principal was obviously under instructions from the Board of Education to remind all ALTs of the illegality of cannabis, the threat it represents to our contracts, and citing the unfortunate precedent of the December 2014 arrest of a foreign teacher for possession to highlight its seriousness. My imagination was immediately pregnant with revealing prejudices about the perpetrator: his/her nationality, age, personality, hair color, body type, dialect, etc. It’s terrible how prejudiced I am. Oh, well.
In the Japanese imagination marijuana and heroin share an equal infamy.
I myself do not smoke, or drink, or do any non-prescription drugs. I never have, so I’ve always been very conventional - or conservative and straight-laced in that regard. It’s strange, too, because people seem quickly to form different expectations about me based on my appearance. Ever since high school I have occasionally been approached by strangers - usually at night - asking after drugs. Canadian police, and now Japanese police as well have graced me with a lot of inquiring attention over the years. Enough already. What do I look like? Is it the black clothes? Or the tattoos? Or the piercings? Or the way I walk? Or maybe it’s the Bible under my arm?