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Adventures In Shiiba -- June 1996
Erik Kassebaum

Japanese Culture

Well, my time in Shiiba is almost at an end. I think most of you understand that though my job will end in July, my connection with Shiiba will last much much longer. Shiiba has become my second home and while I am away my thoughts will often be of this place.

During the last few years I have learned a lot about life in Japan. People often asked if I had any problems with my life here in Shiiba. I usually said that I didn't really have any problems with life here - and then I'd make a joke about the roads or how shopping was sometimes difficult. Honestly, I really have enjoyed my life here - despite the bad roads.

Sometimes people will ask about Japanese culture and whether or not I understand it. To be honest, I still have much to learn. But I think the process of learning will keep me young at heart. It will also provide me with good reasons to return "home" every now and then.

There are a few things about Japanese culture though that I find strange. I suppose "kanchou" is probably the strangest part of Japanese culture I have yet to experience. As I understand it this bit of Japanese children's folklore started as a result of a children's TV show which was broadcast maybe 10 to 15 years ago. I remember asking Dr. Thomas Johnson about this, for one of his areas of interest is the study of Children's Folklore in Japan. He told me that I shouldn't worry and that it (kanchou) is a sign of affection. Well, even after three years this bit of Japanese culture is still very very strange to me. Oh well.

Shiiba's New ALT

In August, Shiiba's new ALT will come. With your help I would like to make the transition as smooth as possible. As I understand it the new ALT does not speak Japanese but is very interested in learning. My hope is that you will show my replacement the same kindness that you have shown me. I also hope that you will teach him a bit of Shiiba-ben.

There will be problems with communication at first, but don't worry. He's the new ALT, not the new chief of police or the new head doctor. You might need to use body language, repeat things, draw pictures or even consult a dictionary - but please "Don't Panic!"

Funny thing about gossip is that it has a life of its own. For example, the latest gossip regarding the new ALT is that he looks like Tom Cruise. The only problem with this bit of gossip is the fact that nobody in Shiiba has seen his picture.

English Greetings
Hello, my name is ________.
Nice to meet you.