I teach a writing class, for which I have the students create blogs. I have the same group of students as in the first semester. There’s one student who showed up for a few classes, but then stopped. In a brief conversation, this student said it was difficult to “join” the class, as it was now a tightly-knit group. I was sad to hear this (creating a strong group consciousness seems important to Japanese students, even more important than actually learning anything), but I had to agree that it was so.

This same student showed up to the first few classes in the second semester, then again stopped coming. Last week, we created our blogs, but this student has not shown up for the last 2 weeks. Today, I found an email from this student, giving me her blog address. Here it is.

Despite the fact that my writing class is an English writing class, many students create a Japanese name for their blog without a second thought, and express surprise when I express surprise “Ooohhhhh! You mean, we have to use an ENGLISH blog name??” (with the unspoken suggestion of “well, why the heck didn’t you say so to begin with!”). This student has not only used a French title, but the title itself is highly significant. Do you recognize it? (It’s the title of a novel).

If not, the student’s profile will give you a hint. When I first saw the profile, I thought: Wow! Here is a kid who actually READS!! If she has really read any of those authors (even in Japanese), no wonder she feels out of place. I had a similar student a couple of years ago who read Dostoevsky, and who also felt a little out of place. I would be surprised if even one of the other students had even heard of Sade (“Yeah! I know! Sad, right? Like, unhappy!”)

Several such students appear each year. Unfortunately, many of them seem to suffer from depression and are on medication or receiving medical treatment. I wonder if there is a connection between these two facts. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to surmise that students who are unusual or not like the others will be under considerable psychological stress in this collectivist society.

(“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a Japanese proverb. Also here. And a blog post and a movie on the subject. “zainichi (resident-in-Japan) Korean hero exudes the kind of spunk and soul most of his Japanese age-mates have either lost or never had to begin with”. Wow. That rings true! I want to see this movie. Have you seen it?)

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