Monday, August 24th, 2009
Before reading Rain Fall, what my year in Japan reminded me of most was a year my family spent in England. Instead of an eighth-grade teacher, I was the student. Superficial things: the food is different, the language is different, the kids wear school uniforms. Deeper attitude things: both are island nations with a sense of apartness from the geographical region (Europe and Asia are Them, not Us). In both places I felt tagged as an outsider. In Japan, obviously so, but to be perfectly clear, 96.9 percent of my family tree originates in the British Isles (and the rest is northern European): one might think that in Manchester I would have blended in.
But everyone in my school of nearly 2,000 knew that I was the American kid.* When I walked down the hall, someone would start singing “We’re the Kids in America” (a song I think is stupid to this day). In English class we read To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was the translator for cultural questions. Another teacher wanted to compare the educational system with the United States. (more…)