Trisha Martin: Zenryuji Nursery School

Last autumn, I compared the different disciplining styles of both American and Japanese preschools in my English CIP blog. Although most of my observations in regards to discipline haven’t changed, the age groups to which I have taken observations from have changed.  Last semester I primarily worked with 4 to 5 year olds, which were some of the oldest children at the school. However, this semester I usually work with the 2 year olds. Despite the 2 year olds being adorably cute, I do not have as much opportunity to actually communicate with them, based on the fact they are indeed 2 years old. Not only do 2 year olds lack a sufficient Japanese vocabulary, they are way too embarrassed and scared by my presence to even attempt English beyond “hello”.

Therefore, rather than talking about the communication I have with the children at my CIP; I’d rather focus on a question I’ve always pondered about my CIP – the significance of time in a time conscious society. I arrive at my CIP roughly the same time every week – 12 noon to the minute. Not only am I afraid of arriving late because it would give both KCJS and American’s a bad reputation, but I’m afraid of arriving any earlier and getting in the teachers way, since they wouldn’t be prepared for more. However, despite me arriving exactly on time, I always manage to feel either absurdly early or extremely late. Apparently there is not exact start time for my CIP (or end time, for that matter). Sometimes I arrive at noon and the students are already mid-meal, in which case I scurry to grab my food and join a table feeling like I’ve somehow arrived very late (which is not the case). Otherwise, the students are still midst their mid-morning activities and they haven’t even started the lunch prep duties, in which case I feel like I’ve arrived too early (again, this is not the case) and am standing around uselessly until lunch actually begins. I find this lack of an exact start time to be a very interesting, considering just how time-conscious my Japanese peers, host family, and school experience have all been. I wonder if lunch time is not exact because there is more emphasis placed on the motions of “lunch” rather than the promptness of “time” at this point in the education system; preschoolers are educated on the way to do things, rather than the timely fashion in which it should be done. . For example, a child has not finished lunch until has every grain of rice is cleaned from their bowl, even if it takes that child more than an hour to do so. I couldn’t even imagine being given more than 45 minutes in my elementary school, let alone an hour to finish lunch. If I didn’t finish lunch on time, well too bad for me. I either had to re-pack it and take it home or throw it away.

Does anyone else face very interesting (either expected or unexpected) challenges when it comes to being “on time”‘?

4 thoughts on “Trisha Martin: Zenryuji Nursery School

  1. I definitely understand where you’re coming from with the issue of being “on time.” Besides from being worried about being late, I’ve always been a little paranoid about being too early to the Manga Museum for volunteering. Although the employees who normally help us out are always very nice and understanding, there’s always that little nagging feeling that you’re an extra burden that you don’t want to necessarily drop on them before they’re ready. I also noticed that they didn’t seem very strict about break times at all. There seemed to be very much an attitude of “if you’re a volunteer, you’re here of your own volition, so take a break or leave when you want to.” Kristen and I stuck to our established routine of one 15-minute break after an hour, and we would inform our supervisor when we left, but it was interesting that they pretty much left us to our own devices.

    For the most part, did you get the sense that the employees at the day care had that sort of attitude about breaks and such among themselves? I can get why they wouldn’t be too worried about timeliness with the 2-year-olds themselves, though, haha.

    • It looks like lots of people have similar experiences with the “timeliness” of Japanese culture.

      Melanie ~ I understand what you mean when you say “that little nagging feeling that you’re an extra burden.” And it’s not always in the context of my CIP that I feel this way. Sometimes my presence in general just feels like a burden for some Japanese, like they wish that I would just go away so that they wouldn’t have to deal with me. For example, once and a while when I’m buying groceries at my local grocery stores, I’ve seen the clerks at the register give each other looks and / or sighs of relief when they see that I am NOT entering their lane. I guess it’s also a similar situation at restaurants where their is a designated waiter / waitress who deals with the foreign customers, so that the rest of the staff doesn’t have to interact with the foreigners. Even if you flag down another waiter / waitress (in Japanese, nonetheless) sometimes, they see that you are foreign and call over the “appropriate” server to deal with you. Have you ever had that happen to you?

      Nate ~ Hm, maybe there is mis-communication in the Taiko group (both between the Japanese participants and the KCJS students) about what responsibilities the KCJS students should have. Like, maybe that one man thinks the KCJS student’s shouldn’t be responsible for set up, and thus just tells you all to come later? Not sure on that one, but it would be very unfortunate if he was doing it on purpose to avoid interacting with you all :'( And in regards to parkour, it sounds like a pretty laid back group, which is nice 🙂

      Sam ~ Yeah, I’m both impressed by the importance the preschool places on eating every bit of food, and unsure if that’s healthy. For example, when I was in elementary school myself, I always ordered the school lunches (they were the cheapest…), but I could NEVER finish the entire lunch. I guess if I had 3 hours, I might have been able to, but generally I’m not a very big meal eater. I prefer to “snack” (though not necessarily snack food) instead. Unfortunately, I was also forced to finish my meals, which meant I almost NEVER went to lunch-time recess because I had to stay behind in the cafeteria and try to finish my lunch all throughout my elementary school days. Even more unfortuantley, I often had to eat so much that I felt sick (and on a number of occasions, actually get sick). I don’t think this could have been healthy at all. So for me, the best solution to “not wasting” food was to bring Tupperware to school to pack up my left overs in if I didn’t finish, and then eat the rest once I got home from school, as long as my teachers didn’t catch me doing this… for some reason, they thought this was bad. Maybe the Japanese teachers would also think this is bad though. But I ask, why?

      Thank you for your comments, Melanie, Nate, and Sam 🙂

  2. Timeliness, huh. With the taiko group I do tend to see the same thing as far as setup and the beginning of practice goes. I could get there “on time” and the group could be in any stage of already being setup, just starting to take drums out, or have not yet done anything at all and people are still straggling in. That might be in part due to one of the members telling some of us the start time was thirty minutes later (maybe cause they didn’t want us to have to help setup?), but I don’t know.

    With parkour… I don’t know how (I don’t factor in train time?) but I think I got in the habit of showing up almost an hour late to some of the jams, and no one cares because no one is waiting on me. But I guess the nature of the activity makes a big difference.

  3. Wow, they seem strict about the rice, although I guess that it’s good that they teach the children the importance of not wasting food. We sometimes arrive a bit late to Nico Toma, but the volunteers are usually working on crafts so it’s easy to jump right in and help. It seems to inconvenience them more if we arrive too early, since we usually come in after their lunch break. Once we arrived when they were still taking their break, and after greeting us they immediately put away their snacks and brought out the activities for us. I felt really bad about interrupting them.