Wednesday, March 16, 2005

An Anthropological Mystery in a Rural Japanese Junior High School


This is the second year class’s depiction of the graduating third year students walking out of Kazamaura Junior High School and into the brave new world that lies beyond the village borders. It strikes me as apocryphal. Boys and girls at my school do not hold hands. I have never even seen them walk together, and if there is ever any flirting it is carried out in some sort of transcendental way far too subtle for my gaijin senses to pick up on. Yet, I am constantly overhearing fragments of conversations recounting budding romances and messy break-ups. Where is all this taking place?! Sexual inhibition in village life cannot be a factor in the mysterious invisibility of hanky-panky at school. After all, I have seen the manga these kids draw in class, and just last night I was engaged in a very frank conversation by some of their intoxicated fathers about foreign men having “fast hands”. One of them illustrated this point by grabbing at my manhood. Who has fast hands? And I can only assume that he was about to be outdone by somebody’s mother who leaned across him to address me, but she was restrained before I could process what she was trying to say (more to come on that party in a future post). So what are these kids with the frisky parents really up to? The other day I walked by a casual conversation in which the head teacher of the third year class was relating the saga of “Little Bo Peep” and “Little Boy Blue” growing close, taking baths together at “Bo Peep’s” house—“and the parents knew all about it, too”—and then someone said or didn’t say something or nothing and they broke up and now “Little Boy Blue” has sunk into a pitiful state of dejection. It would appear, then, that most of the third year students are pairing off like hydrogen atoms, but without generating any visible chemical signatures at school.

This is my cell phone’s depiction of me reflecting on last night’s graduation party.