Today was the first day of training for Ben and I. We still don’t know exactly where we will be placed, but we should find out on monday. Overall, the whole day was very reassuring, we met lots of returning RCS members, learned techniques for being and assistant language teacher (ALT), and learned about what we can expect. The frightening part of the day was how much time was devoted to sexual harassment training. Apparently many male ALTs (not just from RCS) get sent home for sexual miss-conduct. Parents and teachers who are already often dubious of foreign teachers are on the look out, but it seems that this has lead to more scandals, and many instances of teachers being sent home even though they are not yet assumed to have had any type of inappropriate conduct. The male teachers-in-training today were told that the only circumstance in which they should ever touch a student was to break up a fight, but even then to give many verbal warnings, and to only touch the students with the back of their hands. The fact that this has become an issue, is disheartening. The sexual harassment in this country is rampant, there are frequent signs to watch out for up-skirting, and many systems for dealing with groping on trains, both women and men suffer from this situation, as both have become quite wary of each other. Many men who have been accused have had their accuser confess later that it was a lie, and women preyed upon are faced with the choice of either not doing anything, or going to authorities and then themselves becoming a pariah. It is a very unfortunate situation.
Ben and I also learned a few new cultural nuances that I never even would known. Schools in Japan were originally founded on buddhist grounds, so many buddhist practices have carried over and are observed as part of daily school life in Japan. It is essential that you have a pair of shoes for use only inside the school, it is important to participate in the cleaning at the end of the day, and it is very taboo to wear the bathroom slippers anywhere but in the bathrooms. You should avoid showing the bottoms of your feet to someone, and sitting positions such as crossing your legs while sitting are not acceptable because someone might have the bottom of your foot pointed at them. All of these practices are carried over from buddhism, and although religion is a strictly forbidden topic in class, many of the rituals are still observed.
I was glad to learn that nutrition is very emphasized here in Japan. Foods not considered healthy are not allowed on campuses by teachers or students. Even fruit is considered a sometimes treat, and is not to be brought in as a part of your meal. It is not encouraged that we bring in any outside food or beverages, and coffee should be at home only.
Overall the day was very informative. We got to meet a lot of exceptional people. I am really excited to get started.
Trains are the blood stream of this country. Cultural epicenters are based around stations, directions are based on distances from the stations, and transportation is generally by trains. The culture about the trains is very different than any metro I have been on, the most noticeable thing being that they are very quiet. It is forbidden to talk on your phones on the trains, people talk in quieter voices to each other on the trains, and even the trains themselves are much quieter than anywhere I have ever been. They are also one of the few places with heat control. This creates a perfect place to fall asleep. I would say about one out of four people sitting on a train are asleep. Ben and I have also been very impressed by people standing up, but asleep. It is not a taboo thing here at all, all types of people are asleep on the trains. I’m not sure how Japanese people are ever on time, I have no idea how they don’t miss their stops.