Everything You Thought About Japanese Children Is Probably True
November 19, 2009
(Scene: The middle of a first-year classroom. I’m teaching the students about Thanksgiving, trying to explain what a pilgrim is and pointing at pictures of turkeys. I’ve just finished holding up a photo of Randy Moss eating turkey to explain how everyone watches football on Thanksgiving.)
Me: Finally, there are many Thanksgiving Day parades!
(Holds up picture of Macy’s Day Parade, with a Pikachu balloon prominently featured.)
Class: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah Pikachu!!!
(I know my audience really well.)
Me: The most famous parade happens in New York City. There are many big balloons that look like cartoon characters!
(Hand goes up. Keep in mind all questions go through the actual English teacher, who translates for me.)
Student: Do you like Pokemon?
Me: Yes, I did when I was smaller.
Student: How much did you watch Pokemon?
Me: …I watched it almost every day.
(Mix of astonishment and laughter from students. I’m glad they are smart enough to know how lame I was as a youth.)
Student Who Keeps Asking Questions: In Japan the hero of Pokemon is named Sato-san. What is he called in America?
Me, flexing that Pokemon knowledge: In America, he is called Ash!
Me: …..And that’s Thanksgiving! Any other questions?
Student Who Won’t Stop Asking Questions: Do you know Doraemon?
Me: Yes, I do.
Student Who Just Keeps Going: Do you know Crayon Shin-Chan?
Me: (to teacher) Is that the, uh, one with the little kid? (Yep) Yes, I do!
Different Student: Are turkeys expensive?
Me: Oh thank God a question related to Thanksgiving!!!
Student Who Is Oh So Curious: Do you know One Piece?
Me: Yes, the pirate thing, yes I do.
Guess Who!: Do you know Dragonball?
Me: Yes, I do.
A Different Student: Is pumpkin pie good?
Me: (excited and hungry) Yes, it is delicious!
Return of the Kid With Lots of Questions: If you collected all seven of the Dragon Balls, what would you wish for?
Me: (two seconds of silence)
Me: (thinking this over while also just being absolutely floored by this question)
Me: I’d wish for the ability to speak Japanese, so I could understand what’s going on in Japan?
Different Student But Who Also Likes Pokemon A Lot: What are the names of the current people who travel around the world with Sato-san in Pokemon in English?
Me: …I don’t know. I haven’t watched Pokemon in a long time. Any other questions about Thanksgiving?
Student: Can you hunt turkeys?
Precious precious memories being forged here.