Monday, January 13, 2003

Yesterday was Coming of Age day here. In Japan when you reach 20 years old you are considered an adult. On the second Monday of January (traditionally Jan. 15) towns and cities across the country hold a Coming of Age ceremony for all the young people who have turned 20. They dress up in kimono and other fancy clothes, go to the ceremony and then party.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of media coverage about bad behavior at the public ceremonies; too much talking during the old men's speeches, everyone on the cell phone all throughout the ceremony, public drinking, kids shooting off fireworks inside the ceremony hall. Basically really juvenile behavior that eventually caused some cities to cancel their ceremonies all together.
All the tv news shows covered the ceremonies nationwide looking for cases of bad behavior, which they found down in Okinawa. And then most stations went into nostlagia mode as they reviewed how things were 20 years ago when all these new "adults" were born. So typical to focus on the past and what was rather than what the future holds and what kind of society these new adults are going to create. Couldn't they find a handful of 20 year olds doing exceptional things and do short spotlight features on them? The only individual 20 olds they really spent any time on were the "talents" (a term used very loosely here), mostly the girls who are aidoru, magazine pin up models or tv personalities.
I spend most of my time at work surrounded by Japanese kids of that age. They do not paint a pretty picture for the future of this country. Everyone concerned about their own comfort and the amenities available to them and very little apparent ambition or drive.
It's definitely time for me to leave here. With this attitude there's no way I could continue being effective as a teacher with this much contempt for my students. During the 7 years I've been teaching in Japanese universities I'd say there are fewer than 10 students who have struck me as being bright, motivated and likely to make a good future for themselves. It seems like the rest will take whatever comes along, rather than go out and get what they want.

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