Every spring I suffer from an inexplicable urge to “do a better job.” This is especially true in relation to my job as an Assistant Language Teacher, and it is exacerbated by the fact that April is the start of the new school year in Japan. Last April I shaped a new and improved elementary school English curriculum and spent hours on PowerPoint creating flashcards and English bulletins. This April I shaped a new and improved elementary school English curriculum and spent hours on PowerPoint creating flashcards and English bulletins. My opening lesson for the new school year is my new and improved Days of the Week lesson.
This has, in fact, been an illuminating lesson for me as well. You see, like most people, I just assumed that the days of the week in Japan must be named after some archaic list of elements or something: fire (火), water (水), wood (木), metal/gold (金), earth (土), with the sun (日) and moon (月) thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t until I was researching the English names for the days of the week and discovered that the days of the week have commonly been named after heavenly bodies since the times of ancient Babylon that I began to suspect . . . . And sure enough, in Japanese, Mars is called kasei (火星) and so on. It turns out that in most elementary school classes, at least one kid will already know about this. Not only has this “Days of the Week” lesson been illuminating for me, but it has also been a bit distressing to teach. The heavenly bodies have long been worshiped throughout the world, and in manner like to many civilizations the Romans named the heavenly bodies after their pantheon of gods. While it is written in the book of Genesis that God said: “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years . . . ,” it is not for me to pay lip service to false gods, or to honour them by naming them in the days of the week. In fact, the very word “Tuesday” has, in English, become a little repulsive to me. This led me to take a look at the names of the week in other languages, and I was quite surprised by what I found. I would recommend checking out the charts at the bottom of this Wikipedia article. It's quite interesting!