Tuesday, December 5, 2006

School Trips

One traditional feature of Japanese high school life- beyond the overwork- is the class trip. I don't remember our having one of these back in my own high school days. Certainly not like the Japanese model.

For example, one of our students recently came back from the UK. A class trip to the UK. Other high school age students of ours have spent time in Germany, New Zealand, France, Australia and Canada.

One girl is going to Okinawa today. They're not going for fun. They're going to learn about WWII. Her first attempt to tell me this involved calling it the "Ocean War," but she got some help from the high school guy in the class. I was pretty sure what she meant, and that, my friends, is what communication is all about.

But generally, her English is quite good for her age and level. She's still building her vocabulary and once she's got a broader base of words, she'll be fine. Confidence, too. When she's feeling it, she can be very talkative and conversant in English, like when she first came back from Canada. She said more in the first 10 minutes of her first class back than she had in any 10 previous classes total.

Her class will spend 3 days learning a painful part of history and exploring natural caves where Okinawans hid out from the Americans and probably from the Japanese too. While Okinawa is part of Japan, it's been a victim of having such a dynamic culture so near. Okinawa has its own dialect (or maybe even language... I should learn more about it before I spout off too much more) and culture, but it's heavily influenced by Japan's.

The Okinawans suffered a great deal from both sides during the battles there. And to a certain extent, they're still not all that fond of Japan. I've talked to some older students who traveled there and were surprised at running into pockets of strong anti-Japanese sentiment in towns here and there, some on the surrounding islands.

Other class trips are less extravagant. High school classes go to Tokyo Disneyland (a supremely popular destination for people of all ages here... some of our students are practically obsessed with this place) or Kyoto.

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