Hi all. I am afraid this email won't be quite as funny as my others,  but it will be pretty insightful I think. Things to cover...the Japanese  education system...landscapes/buildings...and some thrown in funny things to  lighten it up a bit.
 
----->Before coming to Japan I had the impression, as I think most  Americans do, that Japan is far superior to America when it comes to  education. This is one of the shocks that I received...it isn't. I  can only really write about the Jr Highschools since that is mostly all I  know. So here is a little about what I have witnessed thus far. For  the most part the students here are very respectful...more than the average  American student. They come to school in one of two school uniforms  depending on if there are formalities on that day. There is an everyday  school outfit that looks like a jocking suit, but when there is something  special going on they dress in their formal school attire...for the girls the  uniforms are like a typical private school look...for the guys it is a special  suit (looks like a uniform of the Union during the Civil War) that has the  school's emblem on it. Now to the actual education. Students can  pretty much do what they want. If they know they aren't the best and the  brightest (which they pretty much know by Jr Highschool) then they might show up  if they choose to. When they show up they might even pay attention every now and  then. If you are really lucky they might even be quiet, fall asleep and not  disturb the class too much. The idea of failing a student is unheard of. Failing  a student would mean taking him away from his friends and in a way he would be a  social outcast...which is the last thing you think of doing in this group minded  society. So a student who never shows up, and when he does is disruptive, rude,  and never does any work is passed...year after year. He knows that he is not  going to make it to a great highschool. Therefore he won't make it to a good, or  any college. By Jr High he already knows that the summation of his  "career" will be to wave the on-traffic flag in the pouring rain...why  should he do anything to help anyone else's efforts? All responsibilty for a  student is all the teacher's shoulders. If the student doesn't perform then it  isn't the family's fault. So there are some of the same problems America  faces, I think. A couple other insights are that the students have free  access to the teachers room, which is a big office with all of their desks,  including the principal's. They come in anytime they want...they bow and say a  formal phrase on the way in and out of this room to give the teachers  respect. Oh yeah...I have no idea when the students have to be here...they  are already here doing something by the time I get here at 8:30am...the first  class starts at 8:35 and school ends at 3:10..but then everyone has to help  clean the school (no janitors in Japan; the students clean) and then the first  two levels (there are 3 in Jr High)... equivalent to our 6th and 7th grade have  to participate in a club...soccer, volleyball, baseball or some other sport  which they do all year round. If there are any other things you want to  know about this let me know.
 
------> The buildings here are not too Asian looking. Of course you  will see some buildings that are very Asian...mostly shrines and burial  grounds...some buildings too. But most of the time the buildings have aluminium,  or wood siding. They look like what my family would call "lego"  houses because they are so square and pretty sterile. Most of the places look  like sheds. The landscape is pretty symmetric. Mostly  ricefields...or some other type of garden in perfect order. Again you can  tell the Japanese take pride in anything that is appealing to the eye when it  comes to gardens...many of their dwellings are surrounded by all types of  beautiful plants...the richer you are the better the garden. I will be  taking lots of pictures and video of this so if you want to see it let me  know. Until then, again any questions feel free.
 
----->Now something funny. I was hungry (it happens) the other day  and I said to my one of my english teachers a great American phrase that "I  was so hungry I could eat a horse." He said "oh  really?" Not wanting him to think Americans really ate horses I  quickly explained that it was a figure of speech and that Americans would never  think of eating horses...laugh laugh...until he said "Japanese eat  horse"...I love the taste of my size 12 shoe sometimes. My response  "Oh really?" "Yeah, mostly in Nagano and places further  north." "So you don't ride horses?" "No, just  raise them to eat." "Oh...okay" And then it donned on  me that I had eaten many meat products without having any idea what they  were...the idea of the possibility I had eaten Mr Ed still doesn't settle well  with me so I block it out. Needless to say I won't be using that phrase in  this country again or I might get it.
 
----->Before every class a student says "stand up" and the whole  class stands because I am a teacher and this is showing me respect. I say  some greeting like "Good Morning" and then they respond...I then say  "How are you?"...response "Fine thank you and you?"  "I am...whatever word "(except "fine" because that is all  they know). Today one student jumped the gun and asked in the beginning  how I was...I responded "Great..how are you?"...they responded  "Fine, how are you?"...everytime this happens I just chuckle to  myself...I guess they don't know I already answered that question. A  couple times at another school I went ahead and repeated "Great how are  you?"...it was my idea of making a joke...sarcasim is pretty non existent  here.
 
----->I was walking down one of the school's hallways with one of the  elementary school principals and we noticed a huge flying object...this was the  biggest insect I have ever scene...last time I saw something that big flying it  had a stewardist...you know it is a big insect when you walk by and you can feel  the breeze of it flapping its wings. It looked like a dragon fly but it  was about 6inches long and its wing span was longer than that. Interesting  animal life here.