Speech Contests, Government Subsidized Hand Jobs, and other Aspects of Japanese Culture
|Written on September 7, 2015
If you teach at a junior high, high school or college in Japan, you will likely be asked to judge a speech contest. Years back, I helped a couple of junior-high-school students memorize "The Tortoise and the Hare" for a contest that was to feature child after child reciting the same story, which they probably did not understand and certainly had not seriously contemplated. For Japanese speech contests, stories are to be temporarily memorized--not understood.
My wife was once asked to proofread a speech written by a teacher, and then asked to help a student memorize and perform that speech. I have heard of other students reciting "The Gettysburg Address" and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. And by the way, if you think the kids didn't understand "The Tortoise and the Hare", wait till you ask them a few questions about "The Gettysburg Address".
Sometimes students are allowed to write their own speeches--sort of. The "original" speeches are often about the same two topics: "bullying is bad" and "we should appreciate our parents". Wow! Those are some original thoughts. Where do the kids find the courage to take such controversial stances?
In addition to being painfully boring, speech contests also tend to be unnecessarily long, and by long, I mean all day. It isn't that they have so many speeches; it's all of the extras: opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies, feedback sessions, and whatever else they can dream up. (Living in Japan, I sometimes get the impression that one of the primary animating forces in this culture is a burning desire to never go home.) Opening ceremonies usually include a speech about the importance of learning English. This speech is often given in Japanese by a school principal or university president who doesn't speak a word of English.
About a year ago, I was asked to judge a speech contest that broke the mold--sort of. Rather than attending the contest, I was given a handful of CDs and a rubric for each. I was then free to listen to and judge each speech on my own. So, I sat down and listened to 3 or 4 speeches about bullying, which is apparently not good, and great parents in dire need of appreciation. No, I am not kidding; all of the speeches were about those two topics--except one.
This standout speech was given by a passionate young woman who believed in a cause and wanted her audience to join the fight. What was that cause? Well, our young orator had become aware that there are people who have sexual desires but cannot satisfy them, because of physical limitations. It seems that in enlightened countries such as Holland (it's always the Dutch, isn't it), care providers are allowed to provide hand jobs to patients. Sadly, in Japan, this is considered prostitution and is not allowed. The young woman wanted to know what kind of a sick god would give a man sexual desires but no means of satisfying them.
Fortunately, there is something we can do. There is an organization in Japan called "White Hands" that is lobbying the government to allow care providers to help patients satisfy themselves sexually--no word on how the care providers feel about that. The speaker asked that each of us go to their website and sign a petition. In her words, "If we all put our hands together..."
I gave this girl a perfect score, in hopes that she would be allowed to compete in the finals, which would be attended by our university's president (Merry Christmas, Boss!). I am told she took second place. And that was the end of it, or so I thought. Recently, a friend sent me a news article about the growing number of Japanese adults who are single, not dating, and not sexually active. Yes, it seems that the Japanese (like Koreans, Chinese, and Pandas) are not into making babies the way they used to be. And in a country with a rapidly aging society and no tolerance for immigrants, this can be a problem. Who will help?
Once again, White Hands has stepped in. In addition to lobbying for hand jobs for invalids, these good Samaritans are also sponsoring art classes where single men draw nude female models. The idea being that at some point in the drawing process, some of these celibate sketchers will begin to crave female affection. Then with any luck, they will knock up some girl and Japan will be back on the road to prosperity. Then again, given the choice of raising kids or getting subsidized hand jobs, I think I know where most guys will come down--no pun intended. You can read the article atÂ http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/24/asia/japan-middle-aged-virgins/.Â
Well, that's all for now. Thank you for reading my article.