Japan - from Asahi to Zen
Traditional terms, and a pop culture glossary through the eyes of a raw gaijin.
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Japan,   JET,   -ji,   Jidaimono,   -jingu, or, -jinja,   -jo,   Judo,   Juku

A country so unique and special that every Gaijin who spends six months there seems compelled to write a book (or indeed a webpage) about it.

This belief that Japan is uber-unique is shared by the locals also.    Nihon Jinro is the result - a massive industry of foreign and local "expert" writers and broadcasters lining up to line their pockets and tell us all how wonderful, special and oh so unique Japan and the Japanee people are.    Nihon Jinro is also used by the politicians to ban foreign foods and skis, becuase, apparently, Japanese intestines and snow are uniquely different.

The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme

Each year the Japanese government employs thousands of (usually) young people who are native speakers of other languages (mostly English), to come to Japan.

Most work as Assistant Language Teachers, in Japanese schools, othres as Co-ordinators for International Relations with local government offices, and some as Sports Co-ordinators, working with Japanese kids.    Contracts are initially for one year, up to a maximum of three.    The pay is very competitive, and the work is often lighter than would be found in the Juku.    On the other hand you may be working with very large classes who hae no interest in what you're trying to teach them, helping a Japanese Teacher of a Foreign Language, who's afraid to talk to you.

For the Japanese government it's a chance to improve the communicative quality of language education in schools, and to promote an understanding of Japan abroad, and a greater exposure to the West within Japan.

If you think you'd like the job, apply to your local Japanese Embassay.

See Also:    English,   Exam Wars,   Gaijin,   Juku

A "period" or history play, usually the first on the programme, set in an era previous to the Edo Period, and portraying the lives of warriors and aristocrats.    The majority of such plays were originally written for Bunraku but they are also used for Kabuki.

See Also:    Arts,   Historical Periods

Japanese "Wrestling".

judo action Judo is one of Japan's principal techniques of hand-to-hand combat.    Whereas Karate focuses on kicking and puching, Judo is more concerned with throws and holds.    The idea is to use your opponent's strength against him, and eventually force him to submit.

Strangely enough, the first thing you learn when you start Judo is not how to throw, but, how to fall.

See Also:    Martial Arts

A Cram School

These are private "educational" institutions which supplement regular school study.    Japanese government schools usually have large class sizes, and everyone learns at the same rate.    So if your child can't keep up, or, on the other hand, can't learn enough in school, the answer is to pack them off to a Juku for private lessons in the evenings.   

Eager parents send their kids to Juku in order to better prepare them for the forthcoming "Exam War".    The pressure to get good grades to secure a place in a top university can be intense, and the Juku claim that they can help.

However, many Juku are little more than profiteering capitalist companies, where the educational aspect is completely subservient to the bottom line.    The kids are entertained, not educated, and the goal is not to teach them, but just to get them to sign up for another month.

With the "graying of Japan", as the population ages, the ratio of students to college places improves, and it is hoped that the Exam War and the need for Juku will descrease, if not disappear altogether.

See Also:    English,   JET,   University

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