Fazing and Hazing in Yokohama: conclusion

Life here in Japan has slowly but surely re-wired my sensibilities as well as my expectations of people; in particular, kids. So that now, what wouldn’t have even been picked up on my radar a few years ago, sets off all kinds of bells and whistles: people dropping trash in the street, talking loud or talking on cellphones on the train, my roommates playing loud music at night, etc, etc… According to my old sensibilities, these were all misdemeanors, but with my re-wired sensibilities, they are definitely punishable felonies.

As was Matsui-kun’s throwing stuff at Takahashi-sensei…

Looking out at the crestfallen faces of my students, I regretted my overreaction and wondered how it could have come to be. Yes, I was in defensive mode- practically on suicide watch- when it came to Takahashi-sensei. I didn’t know if having things thrown at her by students would push her over the edge but it couldn’t have helped that’s for damn sure. Besides, I knew it was important for us to present a united front against the unruly masses, show that we had each other’s backs. Especially now because, to me, the object tossing represented an unacceptable escalation in  bad behavior, and needed to be put down and deterred. He had to be made aware that that kind of thing was not going to be tolerated…and Takahashi-sensei certainly wasnt going to do a damn thing. Someone had to do something.

But, aside from the power struggle going on, to be honest, I was a little hurt. I mean, he had really won me over. The bond we had was short-lived, but it lived. It was real. I liked his hugs the way my mother likes my hugs. I really like physical affection and I loved the way he ran and jumped in my arms when he saw me. It made me feel more human, and in a really dehumanizing society like Japan has been for me, I had, without really noticing it, looked forward to it every time. I didn’t care that he was a knucklehead and liked power. I like knuckleheads, and I like power, too. Some of my best friends were knuckleheads at some point but either grew out of it or learned how to put it to good use.

So, I guess you could say I kinda missed him already.

Matsui-kun stared at me for a long time after that, his face frozen in an odd expression somewhere between befuddled and despondent. He was really starting to worry me. Maybe the shock had been too much for him. Or, maybe he was simply thinking, plotting his revenge. After all, he’d lost face big time and he knew that the class was waiting to see how he would handle this situation. Perhaps he’d never been challenged before by a teacher. His henchman, Satou-kun, watched Matsui-kun with an open-mouthed gape. Occasionally he would look over at me with darkness in his eyes. I made a mental note to watch my back around that one.

Takahashi-sensei was walking around the class checking notebooks while I stayed up front trying to look relaxed and pretend like everything was normal, hoping this whole situation would just blow over and be forgotten. Pretending that all the tension I felt and the drama playing out in my head was just that: imagination. I do that sometimes.

However, when Takahashi-sensei reached Matsui-kun, she must’ve realized that he, and in fact the entire class, had been silent for going on 2 minutes or so which was unprecedented. She looked around the room at the various students then at Matsui-kun’s frozen stare at me and asked him what was wrong.

“Loco-sensei pss pss pss pss pss pss…” he whispered, another first.

Takahashi-sensei face dropped. She turned to look at me, then back at Matsui-kun, then down at the floor where the yellow piece of chalk lay, now crushed- no doubt beneath Matsui-kun’s slipper. Then, back at me. Then a light in her face went out…and I knew that whatever ideas I had about a united front were dashed.

When she rejoined me at the head of the class she whispered, “Loco-sensei? Matsui-kun says you threw chalk at him?”

Her tone was incredulous. Not like she didn’t believe him but like she couldn’t believe what I’d done. She was as shocked as the students. Though it was hardly a question I almost denied it. She probably still would have believed him.

“Yeah…” I said, after a moment’s hesitation. Then added, “but only after he threw something at you!” I said this in English and hoped she understood it was done in her defense. But her tone was all, Say it isn’t so, Loco… shock and disgust-laden and guilt-inspiring. It was like she hadn’t even heard what I said.

I peeped over at Matsui-kun as the bell sounded for the end of class. He was still sullen and looked on the brink of tears. I felt pangs of panic-tinged regret coursing through me. What the hell have I done?

I collected my unused teaching materials lost in the contemplation of going and apologizing to him. I had been out of line, after all. Then, I caught a glimpse of movement in front of me and looked up.

It was him.

“Loco-sensei, I’m very sorry I made you angry!” he cried at a barely audible volume.

“Eeee!” I snapped. “What?”

“I made you angry, right?” he said a little louder, his Japanese like a toddler’s Japanese. “And…I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”

“Uhhh…” Just then I caught a movement behind me in my peripheral and I wheeled around ready for a surprise attack. Satou-kun was back there, but he also wore a mask of shame. He didn’t say anything. He just stood there with his head downcast.

“Kochira koso,” (I’m the one who should apologize) I said, turning back to face Matsui-kun. ” I’m sorry.”

“No,no,…” He bowed and gave me a hug without looking up, his head against my stomach. Then he turned and marched out of the class into the hallway- Satou-kun in tow- without even a glance back. I stood there trying to figure out if this was some kind of ploy or had his apology been genuine. Had I neutralized him with a piece of chalk? Was a brief flash of my anger enough to make him re-think his position?

As I made my way downstairs to the teacher’s office, I felt like a heavy burden  had been lifted off of me. On the steps I whistled Wham’s “Last Christmas” one of the staple Christmas songs here in Japan (for some reason.)

When I got to the office I noticed that Takahashi was already there. And, as was becoming a common sight, she was being chewed out and fazed by Kawaguchi-sensei. I wondered what the matter was but I had learned to keep my distance from my buddy when she’s getting in Takahashi’s ass about something.  Like I said, she’s like a different person. It’s kind of spooky. I felt sorry for Takahashi, as usual. She looked like she was being bitch-slapped by a pimp. The other teachers in the office were pretending not to notice this, but it was like not noticing a total solar eclipse. It was the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the room.

From what I could gather from hush tones that rose and fell, Takahashi-Sensei had handed in some report late causing  blah blah blah to be  blah blah blah-ed. More of the same shit. Kawaguchi-sensei ended her harangue with an awful funky, malicious “Ne!?” and walked away from her. Takahashi-sensei took her leave of the office, probably to run to the bathroom and cry. Poor thing.

My desk is next to Kawaguchi -sensei’s. As she passed by I put my head into a text-book and tried to act like I didn’t even know she was there.

“Loco-sensei,” she whispered. “Chotto kite ne.” (Come here for a sec…)

I followed her out of the office and into the conference room across the hall. Kawaguchi-sensei usually does this when she has something important to tell me that she doesn’t want the rest of the staff to know about.

She sat me down. “You know…Takahashi-sensei, she told me about what happened with the student in her class.”

“She did!?”

“Yeah, she told me that you threw a piece of chalk, and it hit Matsui-kun…is that what happened?”

“Yeah, basically…he threw something at her and I kinda lost my…”

“He threw something at Takahashi-sensei?”


“She didn’t tell me that part…”

“It’s not important anyway…I was wrong. I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Yes, please be more careful…”

“I will…”

“Yoku Wakatta!” (I get it now!) She snapped, and laughed. “Ne, ne…” she whispered in the echoing conference room we were in, looking around like she was about to let me in on a great secret. “She told me about that when I brought up her latest fuck up. I tell you she is a sneak and a liar but I know you never believed me, deshou? (right?)!  Hora! (See!) She was trying to get me off her back using you, deshou?”

“You really think so?” I asked, but it made sense.

I’d like to think this kind of shit wouldn’t faze me. I mean, corporate New York (where I worked for 7 years before coming to Japan) can be as cutthroat as it comes. But, I guess because my sensibilities have been re-wired, I have to admit: I was fazed. Syougannai jyan (whatchagonado)

Anyway, I won’t be back at that school until next January after the winter vacation, so I won’t see my little buddy Matsui-kun nor whatshername: the dime-dropping fuck-up with the tits, until next year.

Loco (-:


32 Responses to “Fazing and Hazing in Yokohama: conclusion”

  1. December 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    applause! I’m printing this whole story out and framing it! A worthy piece of literature to have forever.Thanks for the great story telling, truly a gift.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks Kuroshiro-san!!!!
      I like that: A gift
      You’re gonna frame it? Wow? I’m honored!!!

  2. 3 sola
    December 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Well loco I think at least Matsui-kun is gonna be a different person in class from now on, but only when you are around of course hehe. But that teacher… Wow she doesn’t have any gratitude at all, good thing that Kawaguchi-sensei bitches at her constantly. It’s like she is exacting some sort of revenge on your behalf unknowingly haha.

    Anyways nice story, I’ll admit I was expecting a different ending like Matsui-Kun going kancho on you or whatnot. I bet that would have been a crazy situation to deal with and a fun read :p


    • December 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

      Sola-san, (love the name btw) thanksk again for the shout! Yeah, if he had gone kancho on me that would be funny. maybe I’ll make a fictional version of this story and have him do that. And Kawaguchi was torturing her long before Takahashi gave me anything to revenge.

  3. December 17, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I am not sure if you addressed this or not I can’t seem to find it anymore. Have they always been haranguing Takahashi-sensei since she got there or only after she had been there for a while?

    If immediately I say there is more than just late reports is the problem and those are just a symptom of constantly being yelled at. That said if I go strictly by your descriptions of things i do think that the others are a bit too vindictive for just laziness. And when being yelled at yet again I can see dropping your name for sure to stop it a bit sooner.

    I don’t know I don’t have all the facts so it is hard to figure out. Something just still seems a bit out of place.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm

      well, they’ve been in her ass since her honeymoon ended about 2-4 months after her hiring.
      And actually you might feel that way because I don’t have all the facts either so I couldn’t divulge them. All I had is what Takahashi and Kawaguchi tell me and what I observe on my own. What you’ve read is a combination of assumption and hearsay…sorry I can’t give you more than that. I’m just not privy to everything. But I think everything was relevant to the events that took place.
      Anyway, thanks for thinking about this so carefully. it helps me with the editing and it’s good to know readers are not just glossing over my longwindedness LOL

  4. December 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    It still sort of feels like a bit of a mystery (that’s life, I guess!) and hope we’ll here some more stories about these characters when you get back there!

    How many schools do you teach at?

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:24 pm

      Hey Goddess! I teach at 2 schools. One where students call other students Nee-gah (lol) and one where the students throw things at the teacher. But I love my life, I love my wife, and I wish you my kind of happiness lol (last line of Jerry Maguire)
      Thanks for the shout!!! These characters may appear again, if they give me something to write about.

  5. 9 Cedric Domani
    December 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    This kid is a future Yak boss. no doubt.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:20 pm

      CD-san, yuep, no diggity. And they’d be lucky to have him. he’ll probably be a game change like Micheal Corleone…”In five years the Matsui Family will be completely legitimate.” “Every time I get out, they pull me back in!” lol
      Thanks for the shout 🙂

  6. 11 WC
    December 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Awesome! It’s a been a long time since I anxiously awaited something on the web. I looked forward to each part of this eagerly.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:17 pm

      WC, man I like to hear stuff like that! It keeps the blood flowing. thanks a lot!!!

  7. December 17, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I’ll have to agree with WC. Really looking forward to your next post!

    Hopefully that Matsui kid was sincere with his apology, and will behave when you get back. More chance of him forgetting it all (after the first few days) and him going back to his old ways though. 🙂
    Good luck.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      Tykho-san, thanks! Next post will probably be this weekend if i can find some time and some ideas. Sometimes I have ideas and no time. Sometimes no ideas and too much time. Right now I have no ideas and little time. But usually something jumps right out at me here in Japan…hopefully you will find whatever it is that jumps out at me interesting as well.

  8. December 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    “I like knuckleheads, and I like power, too. Some of my best friends were knuckleheads”

    My Uncle used to call me that until I reached 10 and then he just called me a fuck-up with a chip on my shoulder. That word brought back nice memories. He used to give me noogies after he said that.

    Noogies= grinding your knuckles into someones head to cause pain in a “loving way” case anyone is confused. 😉

    Great read as usual Loco! I have pointed some of my students to the Urban dictionary sometimes so they can get what the fuck I’m sayin’ :).

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm

      Chris, my ace boon knucklehead with a chip on his shoulder and an English School in a foreign country lol Yeah, my pops and teachers used to tell me “don’t be a knucklehead like your brothers” and gave me noogies as a reminder. Now them mofos (my bros) are some real knuckleheads but I love them to death.
      Thanks for your support as usual and for dropping the most entertaining responses. You bring back nice memories for me too.

  9. December 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Thanks for consistently posting the story Loco 🙂 I enjoyed reading the ‘conclusion’ but can’t help but feel it is a little premature. I mean, Takahashi-sensei could have just told Kawaguchi-sensei about you throwing the chalk because it’s not good to make excuses. Perhaps in some way she thought that she is responsible for you and by saying you did it in a noble act of retaliation could be seen as not feeling truly apologetic.

    As for Matsui-kun, I am baffled. Perhaps he is just a playful free-spirit and never meant anything maliciously. I’d say still be on your guard for a while after you get back. Remember the ‘darkness’ you said you saw in his eyes?

    I’m not sure what I would do if I were in your situaiton. A talk with Takashi-sensei might be in order, or perhaps I’d try to find out exactly what she’s always doing wrong to figure out if she really is a lier. Office politics are too complicated to judge quickly – I’m only on the brink of understanding mine here at a Japanese city hall.

    But anyway, that aside, great story!

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm

      Mike-san, thanks again for the shout! I really don’t know why she did it. All i know is she did which qualifies her as a dime dropper LOL But trust me I have to work with her so I’ll be on my best behavior, with an eye on the back of my head for her and for Satou-kun (the darkness was in HIS eyes) Matsui-kun is a free spirit and I’ll be damned if I participate in taking the wind out of his sails. Worry not. This post was called conclusion but I have not drawn any definitive ones 🙂
      I really appreciate your kudos and shouts. Doumo arigato gozaimashita!!!

  10. December 18, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Great tale, expertly told.

    • December 18, 2009 at 12:03 pm

      Love the way “expert” sounds (-:
      thanks yo!

  11. 21 B
    December 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe she tried to throw you under the bus!

    Excellent shot with the chalk though, just what the kid needed.

    Your articles are always very nicely narrated, you should publish something sometime!

  12. December 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Somehow I feel I learnt something from reading through your tale. I haven’t been able to nail it down exactly yet but I think it will prove useful someday. Thanks for the story and good luck with the situation when you go back next year.

  13. December 19, 2009 at 12:27 am

    The conclusion was worth the wait… many thanks for an excellent blog.

    How’s Christmas in Yokohama for a brotha from NYC?

  14. December 19, 2009 at 12:44 am

    You are a good man Charlie Brown because if my co-teachers ran around snitching on me I would make sure there was hell to pay. I would design every lesson and activity around pointing out her mental or physical flaws until she apologized. But then again I’m a really bad person. Please write about your next interaction with her.

  15. 25 Moogiechan
    December 19, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Remember you are working with different mindsets, for better or worse. To Takashi, it may not matter that a student threw something at her. Or it may not be that big a deal to her. You and she are teachers and, to her way of thinking, it may be that teachers don’t throw things at students, no matter what.

    I don’t really know. I was continuously surprised by what was OK and not OK at school. One teacher always carried a good sized stick, and gave me one when I jokingly said that I’d like one as well. And I’ve seen students kneeling in front of him to apologize for something. And they didn’t seem put out that he made them do that, either. Yet, they would talk back to him in class like it was nothing.

    Takashi may have mentioned it to the other teacher just because she was as shocked as the students. I bet she’s never seen another teacher do it before! Either way, I hope she gets the idea that her classroom needs a bit more discipline. I bet that the students pick up on the fact that she doesn’t have any support in the teachers’ room, so they know they can get away with more in her class. And she may just not be cut out for teaching.

    Conversely, you did get Mitsui’s attention and that may be a good thing. And, being the foreigner, you would get away with doing things like that more than a Japanese teacher would! I hope that he doesn’t think he has to one-up himself!! Good luck next year!

    Anyway, it’s a great story, well told! I’ll admit I’m glad I’m hearing about it from you instead of experiencing it myself. I’d have no idea how to handle it.

    While I’m writing, have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2010!

  16. 26 tlr
    December 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Loved your story all 4 parts were great! Wow a bit shocked at the end with Ms. turncoat trying to divert the blame of another situation on the incident.

    She is definitely a passive aggressive and likely has gotten by on her looks thru university only to be hammered.

    Not sure if you would but confront her with her tactic and come out direct and tell her straight up that would make a great story…

    looking forward to more short stories.



  17. December 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I remember, when I used to teach in public schools, a second-year junior-high kid who’d pull out a knife in class and make threatening gestures not only to other students, but the female teacher as well. The kid was as big as I was and I remember sometimes thinking about the best way to knock the kid out quickly and cleanly if he ever did go apeshit.

  18. 28 Aka Gaijin
    December 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I wish I knew who to attribute this to, but…

    “No matter how beautiful she is… someone, somewhere, is tired of putting up with her crap.”

    I’ve met some pretty, and on the outside, very nice ladies. However, I’ve learned to give them a months worth of rope to hang themselves. It’s rare that I’ve met a pretty lady who hasn’t done something in that month to set off my spider-sense.

    Blind, shot in the dark guess, but maybe she’s dime dropped on other teachers when you weren’t around. Painting herself into a social corner with everybody at the school. I know I’m pretty well liked at my office because I’ve been known to save people from busses… not throw them under.

    Anywho, enjoy your vacation!

  19. 29 Kevin Smith
    February 3, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I have to agree with tlr. With everything you’ve said about Japan, it seemed that you were supposed to report something like throwing chalk at a student, especially since you were only a visiting teacher. It feels a lot more like Takahashi-sensei was only doing what she felt was part of her job, but because of the situation it was under it looks like even you’ll no longer trust her.

    • February 3, 2010 at 11:33 am

      Smith-san, thanks for the shout.
      I’m not exactly a visiting teacher. I’ve been here three years. But, I guess her reporting it wasn’t the problem. It was the situation like you said. Anyway, Takahashi wasn’t through yet as you’ll find coming up in my current series (The trials and tribulations of teaching in Japan…) where she makes her return…
      chyo yabai yo

  20. 31 Shapeshifter aka Red Dog from the Dutty Smoke
    February 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Hey Loco

    Hishashiburi! It’s Paul aka Red Dog from the Ol Smoke. Checking in again after a while and seeing what ur up to. I tried to link u back in December as was in Tokyo, but didn’t hear back. Hope u get this one.

    It’s always refreshing and insightful to read your stories, I felt for some reason, this was one of your best series. My thoughts.

    Kawaguchi-sensei. For all her faults, seems like you have a rare Japanese confidante there. I have to some degree in an older make teacher at the school I’m at in Kansai. She didn’t have to tell that about the dime-dropper, even if it helped to validate what she had been saying about her.

    Dime-dropper. Ever heard the Jamaican saying, “…Sorry fi Maga dawg, Maga dawg, tun round bite you.”? That’s certainly the case here. I found in Japan you can seem to get so close with a person, share some intimacies and just when you feel you’ve connected on a certain level, they can switch just like. Not gonna go into the socio-psychological dynamics here, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, but I’ve found my time has been spent trying to balance keeping open with people and staying positive, whilst at the same time tuning my Spider-sense and protecting my ass. Losing money and shit is fine, but getting burned emotionally, especially Japanese style, can be very costly (http://www.stippy.com/japan-people-and-society/georges-kokusai-kekkon-blues/).

    Matsui-kun. Love the little bastard. 🙂 The real reason I wanted to comment. Got a few myself, maybe not as demonic as your little friend, but when it comes to class control, if the Japanese teacher is useless, I just modulate my voice slightly and play some Jedi mind tricks with the class. Shows them that Paul sensei maybe fun and chotto kakkoi, he can raise up on your ass when it suits him and he is the boss, despite whatever notions of gaijin you may be holding. I don’t give a fuck and don’t take shit from anyone, not even the Principal. If there’s a little Matsui-kun, then I turn him into my apprentice and make him the star of the show and bring to the front of the class to help me teach. All graciously done of course. This one hasn’t failed yet. As for your Matsui-kun, it felt to me that you may have connected there. Damian or no, he must be special, I’d love to reach out to him and give him some brotherly advice if I were in your shoes. I’m yours and Matsui-kun’s story hasn’t finished, but situations like this makes it a joy to teach for me. Would be nice if you could help him on his way and mentor him a little. Let him realise his unique energy and power, but learn to temper it.

    Personally, I gave up on my blog ages ago, as couldn’t keep it up and hadn’t decided on the focus, so decided to use any JP experience as food for my fiction. Looking forward to reading more.

    Hold it down brother Loco.


    Shapeshifter aka Red Dog 😉

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