Thursday, April 26, 2007

Went to Tsurukawa Daini Junior High School. We saw a clear blue sky at last.

The Japanese cherry trees with double flowers were in full bloom last week, and they have remained more or less the same thanks to the low temperatures lately. They were truly a pleasure to watch. I was taking in their beauty after I wrapped up my morning greetings to the students when that familiar elderly man saw me and approached me. "You really are earnest!" he remarked. "Earnestness is my strength," I responded.

Ms. A., who has an elementary-school age child in this catchment area, came to visit me. After she left, Ms. B., who had moved into a home within a five-minute walk from the School, came to see me. Ms. B. said she finally caught me after a few tries. I was grateful to know that both Ms. A. and Ms. B. had been thinking about me.

A woman on her bicycle stopped, read my sign, and dropped a word: "Again?" I did not know what to make of it, and so I asked her: "May I ask what you mean by that?" She responded by one negative word, and then continued: "But you also have been awarded a prestigious teaching award, as I understand." She said she "read about [me] in the newspaper." She continued: "You are a well-known person with the award under your belt. A person like yourself ought not to be standing in a place like this. Why don't you pour your energy into something more meaningful?" Without pausing to hear my response, she pedaled her bicycle away. (Note: The award she mentioned refers to Utako Tada Anti-Oppression Human Rights Award.)

This woman seems to have made a superficial judgment on the contrast between the punishment and the recognition I received, rather than examining each for its content. There may be many people like her, contrary to my wishful expectations. When I was punished thirteen years ago, a talk was given at a junior high school in the City of Hachioji. As I understand it, the talk was about me and its take was not unlike that of this woman.

A little after 10:30am, three university students from Yokohama came to see me. I had been contacted by them the day before. As we talked, I could tell how deeply and seriously these students were thinking about issues in our society and the ways in which they were trying to live their lives. I had planned to spend about an hour with these ladies and to attend a seminar in the afternoon, but their enthusiasm moved me to change my plans. I decided to continue our discussion. Ms. B. was kind enough to invite us all to her home and treat us all for lunch.

When I returned to the outside of the school gates, a bouquet of dandelions and double cherry blossoms was left on my chair. Looking at the way the flowers were bundled, I could tell right away that it was from Ms. C. (an elementary school child)! I felt enfolded in the feeling of deep happiness. When I returned home, I sent Ms. C. a "Thank You!" note by e-mail. I was right -- it was indeed Ms. C. who left me the bouquet. I learned that Ms. C. and her mother were waiting for my return for an hour. I am so sorry, Ms. C.

Among the students coming out of the school gates to go home, there was one 7th grader who looked at my sign carefully and said, "My mother is saying she is not going to stand up for the 'Kimigayo' song, either." This student and I began to talk about interpretations of the song's words.

In the evening, I had a visit from three students who attended a film-making school. These students were very earnest and they had a firm sense of themselves. A student, Mr. D. from South Korea, was particularly well-prepared, making me think that he must have read almost everything I had written.