I've finally started meeting the locals. There are a lot of great people here.
I'm learning more about Japanese culture through nomunication (Japanese catch phrase combining Japanese word for "drinking" and the obvious English word) than I could ever read in any book (please excuse the bad typing as nomunication seems to have a bad effect on my typing). Friday was my first day of school, and, as I was leaving , the youngest ENglish teacher, who had been with his class and not in the teacher's room for much of the day, chased me down (caught me in the area where I change into my street shoes) and asked me if I like to drink. I was expecting to ask me to plan next week's classes with him, which I'd done with the other two english teachers. Can you guess how I answered? So he picked me up at 6, drove me to a sushi bar, and we started drinking, eating, and talking. I looked at three things on the mostly katakana (easy syllabic alphabet) menu, picked the one I liked most (raw octopus in vinegar), and I think he thought I read the whole thing! I told him I read very slowly, like a small child. We spoke mostly English until his wife arrived (his new wife--they got married about the time I arrived in Tokyo, and they were on their honeymoon in Canada when I had my welcome party with the rest of the teachers (who told me all about him while he wasn't there). Then we talked about half in Japanese and half in English. My Japanese was OK when I was drunk but I was completely unable to learn new words. Talking about Japan and America, the word "important" came up several times, so I asked what it was in Japanese. They told me, but when I wanted to use it several seconds later, I had to ask again--and a minute later, again--and two minutes later, again. Eventually, they realized that whenever I blushed and covered my mouth and laughed, I wanted to say "important" but had forgotten the word again. We had a great time! Next time, we are going to bring the other English teacher and another woman teacher (home economics=cooking and cleaning) who speaks great English. His wife is a math teacher at his old school (he had to move to another school before he could get married). I teased them a lot about being just married and the Japanese custom of saying bad things about the wife so as not to brag and how Japanese girls (at least in junior high school) seem to be able to scare the boys and asking what he thinks about the other female teachers at our school. I think they had as much fun as I did.
Seriously, I have been impressed by how well some of the Japanese English teachers speak English--Omori-sensei tonight kept saying his English was very bad, but he spoke very well with me and seemed to understand me well. I only had to speak slowly for his wife (I tried to speak mostly Japanese for her sake; when I couldn't say what I wanted, he translated for her). It was fun to spend time with Japanese young people (I had a good time at my supervisor's house, but she and her husband are fifty or so). It's weird, but because of the Japanese language tendency to avoid naming the subject, I got through this entire evening without learning Omori-sensei's given name. His wife is Norie. I did find out that Kataoka-sensei (gorgeous young teacher at my main school) is still single, but I didn't ask if she had a boyfriend.
I just got very lucky--my predecessor just called while I was writing this and asked me to teach an extra class for her tomorrow--it sounds like a lot of fun and it pays ¥5000 (~$50)!
I also met another interesting Japanese the other night. He came to a bar with several other JETs (he had become friends with my British friend Damien), and after a few drinks he announced that there "was something bisexual in my pants." It was such a weird announcement that we didn't know what he meant--was he joking, was this some incredibly weird way to say he was bisexual, or was he just drunk and his English was bad?
Saturday (now writing a day later on Sunday) I taught my new class, and it was fun. It was more a discussion group than a class, and the students' English was quite good. I met the boss of one of my fellow JETs; most of the other participants were retired people looking for an interesting way to kill an afternoon. I made several new friends, and Mune invited me back to his bar/restaurant for tea (I've now got a place to go for free tea and coffee, and a discount on drinks and noodles). He's an interesting fellow--about 63, looks like a tough-guy truck driver, and his passions are local history, calligraphy, and haiku. I really think it's marvelous that regular people here pursue intellectual and aesthetic interests. I spent an hour and a half talking to him at his bar after class (drinking tea).
I've also met a couple of interesting young women at parties Saturday night and Sunday. My favorite claimed (quite convincingly) to have thought I was 24; I had initially been a bit reserved, thinking she had just graduated high school, but of course she was really 28. The woman I met on Sunday was 21, but actually looked older than the 28 year old, but that may have been due to personality more than appearance (she actually looked about 21). It's good at last to spend time talking to Japanese people. I like Americans, Canadians (odd people, but nice), Welsh, etc., but....