Monday, April 16, 2007

namara omoshiroi

Well, the school year has begun again here.

New students, new teachers, new colleagues. And at my high school, a new principal. Today was my first day for the year at high school (the first of only seven official visits I might add), so the other ALT and myself were brought to his office to introduce ourselves. It was an interesting experience for me. I haven't done this kind of thing since I first moved to Japan and couldn't understand a word of Japanese, or even what we were doing sitting in some random office meeting some random person. So this time around, I knew what was going on. What I hadn't done was these kind of introductions with another ALT. Especially not with an ALT of the male persuasion.

So, the idea is to go in and meet the head of whatever instution you're visiting. You introduce yourself and chat a little bit, maybe over tea and then leave. When I moved here, I met the mayor, the vice-mayor because the mayor wasn't available the first time I went, principals at three or four schools, and the superintendent of schools. The head doesn't have many more responsibilities other than greeting guests, handing out certificates, speaking at ceremonies and acting as the figurehead (incidentally, I've had a lot of really good talks with the new principal at the junior high because he usually has even less to do than I do).
That part all went well, but it was interesting to see the change in dynamics that bringing in a another ALT created. Although my Japanese is better than the other ALT, the principal was much more interested in talking to him than to me. As in he only spoke to him once we had finshed our pleasantaries. It may have been because I am too straightforward in Japanese, or maybe it was because I introduced myself as the town ALT (there are a lot of bizarre politics going on, and my presence is not necessarily welcome because I work for a different board of education). It may also have been because the other ALT shares an interest in geography with the guy. It may just have been that I'm used to being fawned over as the only ALT at the school. But coming out of the meeting, the overwhelming feeling I got was that it was because I was a woman.
Is that a fair judgement? Probably not. But being a western woman living in Japan makes for a vastly different experience than being here as a man. Which is true of anywhere. But here, there are experiences that my male friends have had that I will never be privy to. And I'm not just talking about the ease of picking up Japanese girls... Although western women are treated differently from Japanese women, there are times when I am definitely treated as a lower class of person. And it's not something I like.
Bah. I think I'm reading too much into things. Must be the crappy weather getting me down. Stupid never ending winter.

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