I already know it
Have you ever noticed
this? Japanese will ignore the
most obvious conclusions that any layman can make from a set of observable facts
in order to get an “authoritative” proclamation about something.
It is a kind of deferring to authority, a way of not thinking for oneself
until an aurhtoized person or body declares it and tells you what to think. Japanese are really big on this.
I often see this in my family life when one of the children catches a cold. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Low fever, sore throat, red eyes, body ache - maybe even maybe some vomiting or diahrea. The wife is all a-fluster.
“Oh, she is sick! What to do, what to do?”
“Relax, it’s just a cold.”
“You don’t know! You’re not a doctor.”
“I’m a doctor’s son.”
“Okay. Take her to the doctor.”
“I will tomorrow. I take the day off my job.”
“How is she? What did the doctor say?”
“No problem. The doctor says it’s just a cold.”
“Well, we already knew that. I told you. You didn’t have to go to the doctor to learn that.”
This “Huhhh” has more meaning - rude meaning - in Japanese than it does in English. In English I imagine that “Huhhhh” is
almost on a par with “Hmmmmmm,” enjoining some kind of ruminative meaning. But in Japanese it is used to shut a conversation off rudely - like shouting at a person to shut his d-----word hole - often accompanied by the speaker turning her back on me and walking away.
The policy of a school where I used to teach was to have all teachers undergo a chest X-ray each spring to check for tuberculosis. (This was only part of a more complete annual physical examination. But I never had the full physical exam. I was only asked to have the chest X-ray.) The request for some kind of annual physical examination is not surprising. (Although it is surprising - even shocking - when you discover how much higher the rate of tuburculosis is among the population here than it is in other major developd countries). Canadian school boards have the same policy, almost. In Canada the policy is (or was) evidence of a negative TB test - either a skin test or a chest X-ray will do. So I said to the head English teacher at this school,
“An X-ray? How long until we know the results”
“Maybe a week.”
“Why not just a simple skin test? We can have the results in a day or two.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“No, but I can read. It’s marvelous.”
“We use this clinic [on the map he is showing me] near here. The doctor is a friend of our principal.”
Oh, now I get it. In addition to greasing palms and lining pockets there is just a lot of old fashioned inertia and resistance to deviating f rom custom. Japanese are really big on that.
My thinking was that a chest X-ray would only show lesions on the lung if a person had had tuberculosis for several months - that being the minimum length of time necessary for lesions to develop. A skin test, on the other hand, would more quickly and easily tell if one had been exposed to the bacteria that causes the disease. But people are set in their ways everywhere, and susgesting something new rarely goes down well, or easily, especially if you are a outsider like me.
No matter how much rest a person gets, Japanese always insist that more sleep is necessary and that more rest is a universal panacea.
As an English teacher, my voice is my job. Of course I have health insurance, but until recently I had no paid days off work for sickness and no job security. Often when I catch a cold it moves to my throat and chokes off my voice with laryngitis for more than a week. At such times Japanese teachers try to be helpful by suggesting, “You should talk less and rest your voice.”
I say, “Duh!” slapping my forehead with a loud smack. It never got through to the Japanese teachers that I was a contract employee and that I did not work for the school and so did not enjoy the same job benefits that they did.