Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October is Spookey Month: What our English Clubs taught me this week!

Yeah, I apologize for how slack this year's "October is Spookey Month" has been.  I'm usually very enthusiastic about sharing that ol' Halloween feeling with you from over here in Japan.  But this year marriage and work and my comic book blog took away a lot of my energy for exploring the strange and supernatural here, so I didn't learn as much this year.  Spookey, the band, hasn't toured or released any new music or videos in a while, and I used up the "A" material already.  So not much to tell you this Spookey Month.

But we did give our English Clubs this week a bit of a Halloween focus.  I really wanted to show them It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which we have at home on Blu-Ray, but we don't have access to a player.  Instead, we used a story about a ghost tour in Matsue:  Matsue's ghost tour still popular | The Japan Times to learn some vocabulary and have some fun talking about ghosts and monsters.  It went over very well and the students shared some insights that really impressed me.

Just about everyone nominated Sadako from Ringu as the most famous of Japanese ghosts.  When I asked this of my Tuesday and Wednesday groups, both immediately came up with her name.  The most liked seemed to be Kitaro from Hakaba no Kitaro (GeGeGe no Kitaro), a very popular choice with my Wednesday guys, who cited his helpfulness as their reason.  Hanako-san from the toilet got a mention from one student, so we'll place her a distant third in the ghost fame-popularity sweepstakes.

When we talked about kuchisake-onna, two students could tell me in English her traditional question of, "Am I beautiful/pretty?" but only one out of both clubs could guess the best reply, "You're so-so."  We had to make sure everyone knew what to say before they left because it was quite dark both nights.  I don't want to be responsible for any of my students coming to grief at kuchisake-onna's hands.  We talked a little about rokurokubi (one student brought them up and another illustrated the concept on the chalkboard, which was pretty brave of him considering how his first attempt at drawing a ghost ended up transformed into a dripping ice cream cone by one of his friends).  No one knew about Teke Teke, but when we finally got around to talking about her, they were almost all disgusted by the idea.  So I'm guessing that's either a more regional urban legend, or none of our Tuesday or Wednesday students have seen the horror movies based on the story, or have spent as much time thinking about this stuff as I have.

Out of eight students, five said they don't believe in ghosts and three said they do, but they were unanimous in the belief that graveyards are scary places.  None of them felt particularly enthused about visiting a temple at night, even in a group armed with flashlights.  I'm not sure if this is because the idea bores them (some) or creeps them out (the others).  As to why we're sometimes afraid of even familiar surroundings in the dark, most agreed it's because of the unknown.  We just don't know what might be lurking around even in our own houses when the lights are out.  Two students cited instinct, as in "People have an instinctual fear of the dark."  One student mentioned the safety issue-- you simply can't see what's around you, so you might trip over something and injure yourself.  Practical.

I asked why Sadako and most Japanese ghosts wear white.  One student said this is because dead people wear white at their funerals.

And they all agreed there aren't any decent commercial haunted houses in Shizuoka prefecture.  I guess that's a matter of taste, but since they're more the target audience than I am, I'm going to defer to their opinion.

Finally, when writing about ghosts, one student revealed he's more interested in UFOs.  I think we should do a club activity based on that sometime in the near future.

So, to make up the general crappiness of my own Halloween blog celebration, here's a link to a 2006 blog entry by someone else about a supposedly-cursed Kleenex commercial from the 1980s!  I don't know who Moroha is, but this is truly some cool stuff!  I just wish I'd known about it sooner, because it would have been interesting to see if our English Clubs knew anything about it.  Nice job, Moroha, and thanks for posting that!

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