By now, you've heard that (now former) Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe suddenly stepped down from his post amid a storm of controversy last month. He'd been in office for less than a year, and pulled together a last-minute press conference to announce the news. The resignation made headlines around the globe, and speculation as to "why" has been a hot topic of discussion at water coolers across Japan.
But today, the news hit one of my sixth-grade English classes at Sakai JHS.
The lesson was simple enough: we'd learn the proper use of the interrogative "who," and review the use of "I am," "he is" and "she is." To accomplish this, students divided into groups of three and pretended to interview a famous person, via webcam, using a script I provided:
Student A: "Let's talk with (name)."
Student B: "Who is (name)?"
Student A: "He/She is (insert description here). OK, let's talk."
Student C: "Hello, I am (name). I am (insert description here)."
Simple enough. Some student groups chose the usual suspects for their interviews: we spoke with Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob, several Japanese anime characters, and even a few Japanese baseball players. For the most part, students were creative in portraying their famous interviewees. (Think: "Hi, I am Mickey Mouse. I am a cartoon. I live in Disneyland. I love Minnie Mouse.") But the real treat came toward the end of the class, when a group of boys presented their dialog.
Their famous person of choice? None other than Shinzo Abe. It went down like this:
Student A: "OK, everyone, let's talk with Abe."
Student B: "What? Who is Abe?"
Student A: "Errr....He's my brother."
(The kid cracks an 'I-know-I'm-a-smart-alec' grin as his classmates erupt with laughter. My Japanese team-teacher and I struggle to keep straight faces. It takes a few moments for the class to settle down, but, hey, they're speaking English, so I'm thrilled.).
Student A: "OK, let's hear from Abe."
Student C: "Hello, I'm Abe."
(There is a long pause as the class braces for "I am Prime Minister of Japan," or "I am a politician." Instead, we get another smart-alec grin and a killer punchline.)
'Nuf said. The group sits down.
The entire class - including both of its teachers - rolls with laughter.
I'd like to think that three little political cynics were born at that moment, and that perhaps I inspired them in some small way. At any rate, whoever said that the Japanese don't appreciate sarcasm or cynicism certainly hasn't visited English 1-2 at Sakai JHS.