Yeah, isn’t it great to have goals (like posting 2-4 times a week) so you can see them fizzle out as soon as things get busy? Sigh. In my defense, my last two weeks have been like this: Work, business trip, sleep during the weekend, work, business trip, sleep for the love of god.
Anyway, last week I went to “English Camp,” which was a school fieldtrip to a conference center in Gotemba owned by TOTO, the toilet company. There were 7 other ALTs, 2 Japanese teachers, and 36-ish students. The conference center was very nice, with hotel-style rooms (that had bathrooms!), public baths, lounge areas, and a cafeteria as well as their meeting rooms. While I have tons of pictures of the camp, most are “for my eyes only,” as the laws about sharing photos with students in it is about as strict as you’d think.
The camp was fun. It mostly involved games and activities done in English with an English focus. For example, singing English songs, scavenger hunts for items and tasks in English, etc., etc. Our work days were long* and usually constituted a 10-hour work day.
The behavior difference was astounding. Here we had 15 year olds on a field trip, allowed to wear casual clothes for 2 days of the 3 day camp, and yet not once did I see anyone ignoring the activities for their cell phone (only time a cell phone was whipped out was to take pictures). They didn’t even ask to put on music (finally, I did for my group, and they were quite amused when my MP3 player randomly selected “Gangnum Style“)! Not once did anyone backtalk me or another ALT (in my presence, or that I heard about). Not once did anyone try to ditch. Yes, they were chatty; when we transitioned from one activity to the next, we would have to remind them to settle down so they could hear directions. But, even that was a minor struggle in comparison. In America, I hesitated before volunteering for fieldtrips because I didn’t want to be responsible for students (especially in large groups). Here, I didn’t worry. I wonder how much of this was because they were part of a “rigorous international study program” at their high school, one that required high test scores (both in the subjects and English) to get in to?
So, besides well behaved students who followed directions, the other thing I’ll always remember about the English Camp is the toilets.
Yes, the toilets. Yes, this is “person from America goes ‘[su_tooltip style=”green” position=”north” content=”The Japanese equivalent for ‘cool,’ or ‘wow.'”]Sugoi[/su_tooltip]!’ over Japanese toilets” post. If this has no interest to you, don’t worry, my next post is going to involve fire.
Let me explain…TOTO is the world’s largest toilet manufacturer, and it’s based in Japan. It also invented the Washlet, which has a bidet in the toilet seat. And obviously, somewhere along the line, TOTO said to itself, “Hm, why stop there?” Which led to the kinds of toilets sprinkled throughout the TOTO Conference Center. Behold:
Obviously the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. The cool thing was on the top, there are buttons to lift and lower the toilet cover and seat, and flush, so you never have to touch it again (well, except buttons of dubious hygiene). And yes, since the buttons weren’t in English, a lot of it was, for me, “wonder what this does?” The toilets will also sing a song (to mask noises), release air freshener, warm the seat, and increase/decrease water pressure. Pretty snazzy.
But, OK, I was warned about snazzy toilets before coming to Japan. I’d seen one with less options in the Tokyo hotel. But, nobody warned me about the full body shower chair.
Yes, that’s right. A shower chair…with jets…
Again, wish I’d gotten a picture but somehow just never found myself with a camera in the public bath! Anyway, imagine a large plastic chair that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. A part of it lifts to make a chest area, so there are jets directed on your torso. Two arms come out, as well, so there are jets directed on the top of your arms. Your feet dangle, slightly spread. Jets are positioned along your spine to give you a nice massage. Near the top, so all you had to do was reach back, is a detachable shower. Literally, all I had to do was soap myself up, turn on the chair, and sit, then use the shower for my hair.
The future is hither, people.
* In my American school, the teaching contract had a little proviso that said we were to do “extra duties as assigned.” This little loophole allowed for quite a few extra duties, as you can imagine, and most of them resulted in adding to our work week hours, which were already in excess of 40. I am supposed to work 35-40 hours a week here, but I can already see that some things are universal (i.e. “extra duties”). But, these extra duties are much better than the ones I had in America, so I won’t complain.