Dateline: Thursday August 3, 1989
- Orientation sessions
- Meet Murakami-sensei
- Dinner in Shinjuku with Murakami-sensei
We walk across the very famous intersection in Shinjuku that looks like a scene from Bladerunner although, of course, it is the other way around.
Notes from 2009
Murakami-sensei Takes Charge
In the afternoon, we meet Murakami-sensei for the first time. She is the head English teacher at the high school I’ve been assigned to–Beppu Girl’s School. She has been sent to fetch us back to Oita Prefecture on the eastern shore of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.
Here again the handful of private school JETs are handled differently than those of us assigned to private schools. The former majority are shuttled around together by the prefectural office. Their orientation is the same and they have a greater chance to bond with each other. Those of us assigned to private school are ushered into the care of our private schools and mostly forgotten. Some are assigned to schools in very small communities far from Oita City.
JQS and I have, I think, the perfect situation. We are off the beaten track and so socialize mostly with other teachers at my school. But we are not so far off the beaten track that it’s difficult to get to downtown Beppu (which we do every weekend) or to Oita City (which we do about once a month).
Our meeting with Murakami-sensei sets the tone for our life together for the next two years: I bow and she puts out her hand to shake mine. Startled, I put out my hand to take hers as she pulls it back quickly to bow. Initially, I struggle to understand her English which frustrates her and shakes her confidence as she is the best English teacher in the school. She struggles to understand my English which I have not yet learned to moderate–to speak slowly in simple sentences with no idioms or slang.
At this moment, I do not understand fully the difficulty that Murakami-sensei is in. As the head English teacher, Murakami-sensei has been made responsible for my every moment in Japan. Whatever arrangements need to be made, she must make them. Whatever I do, reflects on her, and on my school. If I get into trouble, it’s her fault.
I remember our last conversation, two years later, when she is driving me to the airport–her last duty concerning me. I ask her, “When does the new AET arrive?”
“Then you have a couple of weeks to relax before she gets here.”
“You understand Japanese [people] very well.”