Posts Tagged ‘hokey pokey’

Happy (Belated) Halloween!

This past weekend my supervisor asked me to teach a Halloween lesson to a few children at our neighboring town’s community center. So I showed up Saturday morning not exactly sure what to expect. There were about 10 kids and a couple of adults there to help out, including my taiko drumming sensei. We started with a little Halloween crossword, with words such as “Haunted” and “Jack-o-Lantern.” Then, it was time to do what the kids were really there for: trick-or-treating. First, though, we all practiced our lines:

Child: “Trick-or-Treat!”
Adult: “Here you are.”
*Child takes one piece of candy
Child: “Thank you. Happy Halloween!”
Adult: “Happy Halloween!”

I was considering telling them if they really wanted to imitate trick-or-treating in the States, the kids would mob the adult, take as much candy as possible, knocking down the bowl if necessary, and complain if they had anything smaller than King Size. But I figured that might dampen the Halloween spirit, so I refrained.

Before any trick-or-treating commenced, everyone donned costumes. One adult was a witch, another a pumpkin, my taiko teacher was the devil, and I was Dracula. However, as I began searching for the fake vampire teeth, the kids had a different idea in mind…

Evidently, in Japan, Dracula wears a cape, boa, and Mad-Hatter-esqe top hat with bow.

I think I look more like a confused pimp.

Oh yes, and throughout the trick-or-treating, the Harry Potter soundtrack played down the hall. Definitely set the mood. And, of course, no Halloween lesson is complete without a rousing round of…

…the Hokey Cokey!

When I got home, I made myself a sandwich, ate it outside on my lovely deck, and was cleaning up when suddenly, the door bell rang. At the door stood a boy who greeted me with:

Boy: Konichi….er, herro!
Me: Hello!
Boy: Genki desu ka? (Are you well?)
Me: Hai, genki desu. (Yep.) (At this point, I was pretty proud of myself for understanding something in Japanese)
Then he said something I didn’t understand and made an exaggerated coughing motion.
Me: Umm, I don’t understand. Oh, er, choto matte. Jisho! (Wait a minute. Dictionary!)
I ran inside to grab my 1995 tatter-paged Random House Japanese-English dictionary. By the time I returned, though, the boy was already pointing at the translation in his electronic jisho on his cell phone. I guess I’m old-fashioned. The translation was indeed “a cough, coughing.” I pointed at myself with a quizzical look. He nodded. I explained to him that I was fine. He gave me a relieved smile and left.

This may be the most random house visit I have ever received. Maybe he caught me coughing outside while attempting to master the Japanese inhaling technique with my sandwich? Well, about an hour later, I spotted him again, standing in the parking lot staring whimsically in the general direction of my apartment. Clearly, this kid was climbing the awkward stalker ladder rather quickly, so I resorted to my best method for breaking the ice – Frisbee. Fortunately, this glorious plastic disc has its own international language, so as soon as I brought it out, he was eager to play. And man, could he throw! Despite being the first time he’s ever touched a Frisbee, he was tossing it the length of the parking lot in no time. To Emmet 1st Right, you guys picked it up quickly, but your skills are no match for this kid’s learning curve. Some claim the samurai defined Japanese culture. Well, let’s just say when this kid is through, “Flick” and “Hammer” (or “Hu-ri-ku” and “Ha-ma”) will have official definitions in the Japanese dictionary. And what’s more, through this wonderful sport I discovered that the boy’s name is Reiya, he is a 4th grader at one of my elementary schools, and his favorite Pokemon is Pikachu. He also offered me a piece of gum and sips from his Coke.

I think I’ve discovered the secret to international friendship. Now, I just need to figure out how to convince world leaders to trade bullets for Frisbees…

The Alphabet Song and Breakdancing: More Crazy Things in Japan

The Alphabet Song
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the fairly standardized Alphabet Song. It went something like:

A B C D E F G,
H I J K LMNOP,
Q R S,
T U V,
W X,
Y and Z
Now I know my ABCs, won’t you sing along with me?

However, my Japanese kids are learning some interesting versions:

A B C D E F G,
H I J K LMNOP,
Q R S and T U V,
Dou-ble-U and
X Y Z
Happy happy I will be, when I sing my ABCs!

or even stranger:

A B C D E F G,
H I J K L M N,
O P Q R S T U,
V W and X Y Z
Happy happy I’m happy, I can sing my ABCs!

The last one doesn’t even rhyme! I mess up every time the students sing these skewed versions, so much so that I’m pretty sure they think I don’t know the alphabet.

The Hokey Pokey
Similar to the Alphabet Song, I thought the Hokey Pokey was pretty straightforward:

You put your _____ _____ in,
You put your _____ _____ out,
You put your _____ _____ in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

However, the Japanese do it a little differently:

You put your _____ _____ out,
You put your _____ _____ in,
You put your _____ _____ out,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

Ohhh, do the Hokey Cokey,
Ohhh, do the Hokey Cokey,
Ohhh, do the Hokey Cokey,
Knees bend, arms stretch, ra ra ra!

At first, I thought this was a typo. However, once the kids started singing, I knew they were seasoned Hokey Cokeyers. I considered correcting them, but who am I to say it isn’t called the Hokey Cokey?

Table Manners
I love eating here. First off, instead of keeping your head over your plate, in Japan, you bring the plate to your face. The engineer in me agrees with this method: if the goal is to bring the food to your mouth, don’t you want to minimize the distance the food must travel? See Mom – I didn’t have bad manners, I was just eating the Japanese way. By far though, my favorite part about eating here is the slurping; it is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. According to Japanese custom, the louder you slurp, the more appreciation you’re showing to the chef. I am continually amazed by the variety of foods the Japanese manage to slurp – noodles, salad, meat, anything. My theory to how they perform such a feat is that they literally inhale their food. By sucking in air while they eat, they simultaneously consume enormous amounts of food rapidly and produce that succulent slurping sound. Some of my students even finish their lunches before I’ve pulled out my chopsticks. No wonder the Japanese demolish every food eating contest.
(Note: In my many efforts to mimic this method, I have very nearly choked on my food. For your protection, any food inhalation attempts should be supervised by someone trained in the Heimlich maneuver)

Footwear
The Japanese have very clearly defined outdoor and indoor shoes; outdoor for wearing outside and indoor for, well, inside. Pretty self-explanatory. I, of course, generally forget to bring my pair of indoor shoes to my schools. Whenever this happens, I have two choices. I can either draw more attention to my giant-sized feet (if that is even possible here) by wearing the school-supplied visitor slippers that leave a good 3 inches of my heel hanging off the end. Or, my preferred method, I make sure no one is looking, then quickly jump from the take-off-your-outdoor-shoes area to the put-on-your-indoor-shoes area. I’m pretty sure no one has caught on to my sneaky shoe secret yet, so shhh, let’s keep this between you and me. What I actually want to comment about in this section is the practicality in Japanese footwear, shoe-swapping aside. Because they know they will be indoors the majority of the day, the Japanese make sure they have comfortable indoor shoes. Therefore, I am surrounded by teachers in shirts and ties or blouses and skirts, all sporting loosely-tied Pumas, or even Reeboks with the straps (with the straps). As such, I have designated my auburn NSS “Nice Skate Shoes” as my official indoor shoes. Now, some of you have been calling these puppies ugly for the past four years. However, in Shichinohe Junior High School, I am applauded for choosing comfort over fashion. Well, maybe not applauded, but at least no one labels their color as “poo brown.” Wait, what’s “poo brown” in Japanese?

On a completely unrelated note, I just returned from a weekend-long soccer tournament in Nagano (about half the length of Japan from Shichinohe). Our Aomori team took an overnight bus and arrived Saturday morning for a full two days of soccer. Now, we’re a pretty athletic team; none of us are soccer pros or anything, but we can all at least kick a ball. As such, we thought we stood a fairly good chance in the tournament. Little did we know, 99% of all European ex-pats in Japan had signed up as well. To put it lightly, we got spanked. In six games of football, we scored 2 goals and had ten times that amount scored on us. It was a blast though, and in one weekend I was called a “lad,” “mate,” and even a “bloody wanka” when I ref-ed a game. Also, there was a tournament party Saturday night, and randomly in the middle of the dance floor, a group of Brits started breakdancing. I’ve never seen such moves, and if this is a standard occurrence at European parties, I need to make my way to London ASAP. Anyway, I arrived back in Shich around 4 a.m. this morning, and throughout the day, my students have given me bewildered looks as I limp half-asleep through the hallways. All in all, a solid weekend.