For all you "Azumanga Daioh" fans out there!
Another Day With Osaka
My name is Ayumu Kasuga. I grew up in Osaka, but in my first year of high school we moved to Tokyo. So I go to school there now. People here in Tokyo think I talk kind of funny. I guess I am awful Kansai-sounding. So the other students at school all started calling me “Osaka.” You know, because I really sound like I’m from there. Even some of my teachers started calling me that! It wasn’t something I was happy about, but I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve learned to see it as sort of a distinction. Like they say back in Osaka, when life gives you a lemon, you ought to go make yourself some lemonade.
This morning didn’t get off to a very good start. Instead of going straight to school, I decided to run by my friend Chiyo-chan’s house to walk to school with her. Chiyo-chan’s pretty neat. She’s such a genius that she got to skip middle school completely. So here she is in high school, and she’s years younger than anybody else! She even looks kind of young for her age. And she’s still a better student than most anybody else. Bright as the noonday sun on the bay, as they say back in Osaka. She’s a really nice person to know, too.
Anyway, I tried to run by Chiyo-chan’s house, but I got lost. It’s not like it’s all that far away, but streets in Tokyo can be so confusing—they wind around, and they’re all different lengths, and the houses on them are numbered in the order in which they were built, so that Number 205 can be nowhere near Number 206. Why is that, I wonder? Seems like it would be so much easier to find places if they started on one end of the street and put all the numbers next to each other.
So anyway, I got lost, and wandered around wondering where I was, and I was starting to get a little bit frantic when I recognized the convenience store I was walking by. Then I got orientated and was able to run on to school. I got to class nine whole minutes late! Fortunately I didn’t get into any trouble because Miss Yukari—that’s our homeroom teacher—came in two or three minutes after I did. She does that sometimes. This morning she seemed like she wasn’t feeling too good. That’s not good for the class when that happens, because Miss Yukari can get awful cranky. It wasn’t too bad today.
Later on that morning we had P.E. I hate P.E., because I’m kind of small for my age, and really uncoordinated, and just not much good at athletic stuff. Miss Kurosawa—she’s our P.E. teacher—makes me team up with Chiyo-chan when we do drills in pairs. Chiyo-chan’s too little to keep up with the rest of the class, and I’m not much good at anything, so we match up okay. It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes! The only thing that keeps P.E. from being just intolerable is the fact that Miss Kurosawa is so nice about everything, and always has an encouraging word for her students. She’s probably the most popular teacher in school. She’s just as sweet as a mochi wrapped up in a sugar loaf, like they say back in Osaka.
After P.E. we had Social Studies class. Mr. Iwamoto, our teacher, was talking about how Japan’s economy is in trouble, because not enough young men seem to care about trying to advance in business. They spend all their time playing video games and reading manga and stuff, and so Japan doesn’t have enough young men who can handle being promoted into positions of responsibility.
Well, that got me to thinking. I put up my hand, and I said “Mr. Iwamoto, I’ve got this cousin back in Osaka named Kaede. She’s really smart and got a good education, and she’s working as an office lady, and she says nobody will give her a promotion at work. Why don’t they promote ladies like her to those positions of responsibility?” Mr. Iwamoto just looked at me for a minute. And then he said “That’s…an interesting suggestion, Miss Kasuga” (Some of my teachers do call me by my real name!) And then he moved on. I still wish he would have answered my question! Happens a lot to me when I ask teachers questions.
Speaking of asking questions, that afternoon I kind of got in trouble asking one in Miss Yukari’s English class—that’s the class she teaches, besides being in charge of our homeroom. She was going through the conjugation of the verb “to build.” She was talking about how when you’re putting up a house or something you say “I am building.” When it’s all done, you say “I built it.”
So I asked her, “Miss Yukari, why don’t they call houses and such that are already done ‘builts’ instead of ‘buildings?’ They’re not ‘building’ it anymore—it’s already all ‘built.’” Well, she gave me a look that made me afraid she was about to throw her chalk at me! I hate when she does that—it can sting when she has good aim, which isn’t that often, but it does happen sometimes. But she didn’t throw her chalk this time. She just kind of sighed and moved on.
I still think it was a good question. I’ll never understand why English-speaking people come up with some of the things they do. I guess people who do things like walk into their houses with their shoes on, like they’re not even worried about maybe accidentally tracking in dog mess, just don’t think like people do here in Japan.
Going back a little way, at lunchtime Chiyo-chan and I sat with Tomo and Yomi, like we usually do. Tomo and Yomi are old friends from way back. But that doesn’t keep Tomo from giving Miss Yomi a hard time a lot. Today we noticed that Yomi wasn’t eating any rice with her meal. She said she was on a diet. Tomo got to talking about how she didn’t blame her one bit for going on a diet! Next thing we knew, Yomi was trying to kick Tomo’s rear end six ways to Sunday, like they say in Osaka. It’s like when Tomo says things like that she doesn’t ever see what the consequences of her actions will be. There are times when I think she acts like she’s as bright as a moonlit night, like they say back in Osaka.
Usually at lunch we also sit with Miss Sakaki. Miss Sakaki really stands out in a crowd. She’s tall, and she has long hair, and she’s built like an American—I guess you know what I mean. She seems like she’s good at everything she does. Other students act like they either think she’s really cool, or like they’re intimidated by her. When you get to know her, though, she’s really very nice. Just kind of shy.
But Miss Sakaki wasn’t at lunch today. Somebody said they saw her by the fence on the edge of the school yard just before lunch talking to a cat. When she showed back up after lunch, she had a bandage on her hand. Next thing you know, there were rumors going around the school that she had been in a fight. I don’t believe something like that about Miss Sakaki for one minute. But it’s true that it’s a mystery sometimes where she goes and what happens to her.
In one of my afternoon classes I dozed off for a while. While I was dozing I had this dream about seeing this funny cat that looked like Bill Clinton—you know, the American President guy—floating down out of the sky and talking to me. It kind of freaked me out, and I woke up all of a sudden, and I got called down for disrupting the class. The teacher—it was Mr. Onizuka, the tough one that rides the motorcycle—asked me if I kept dozing off in class because of “the medication.” I don’t know what he was talking about, because I don’t take any kind of “medication.” Why would he think I took “medication?” Well, Mr. Onizuka does say things about his students a lot.
It beats me what caused that weird dream. Probably it was related to something I saw on TV. You know, sometimes the things you see on TV can sort of invade your dreams. That’s why I don’t watch “Pokemon” cartoons any more. But that’s another story.
After we got off school I went to Chiyo-chan’s house with her, and we talked for a just a bit, and we played with her dog, Mr. Tadakichi. Then I went home. I got lost going home, and wandered around until I found the convenience store and got orientated again. I got in a little bit of trouble for being late for supper. But not too much.
Anyway, that was pretty much my day. “Another day, another hundred yen,” like they say back in Osaka. Which doesn’t make much sense, when you think about it. After all, if you’ve got a job they really ought to be paying you more than just a hundred yen for a day’s work!
The public library is the community's kindly grandmother: helpful, patient, understanding. Society pays little attention to it, even though society cannot survive without it.