Last week–or was it yesterday because I’m still jet-lagged–I got back from Osaka, Japan after a two week adventure with two colleagues and a baker’s dozen grad students in Osaka. We spent a week in schools, which included pre-school, elementary, junior high, and high school with a tour of a university. We saw some amazing things and some not so amazing things. In the end, we grouply decided that kids are kids (and teens are teens, attitude and all). The main difference we saw between US and Japanese students is that the Japanese allow and expect far more independence from their children and they are about two years ahead in math.
We also saw a lot of myths busted. You know those, right? Japanese kids go to school 10 hours a day, 280 days a year? They all wear uniforms and behave…ha! The school day is 5-7 hours, with an extensive, student-run club schedule at the high school. And while Japanese children go to school year-round, it’s a trimester system with plenty of time off. The schools themselves are not aesthetically pleasing. They look like something the US military would build, all concrete and steel. But they are functional, which is what the country values.
The rest of the time, we were tourists. We visited Nara, Kyoto, Himedji, Miajima, Iwakuni, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and other places. Lots of walking, lots of trains, lots of sweating due to it being the rainy season. Lots of good eating—-okonomiyaki, yakisoba, tempura, curried rice, as little sushi as possible for me. Only one trip to a fast-food place (KFC) and none to Mickey D’s.
The whole time, I heard not one cell phone ring. Nada. Zilch. Although everybody had one, it seemed, no one felt the need to advertise it. On the other hand, too much cigarette smoke. The Japanese as a whole aren’t so progressive on personal air space rights, so the stench and lung-lock of second-hand smoke was a fact of life.
There are photos as soon as I get them uploaded.