Last night I sang up a karaoke storm with my peeps from JETAANY.org.
Sakizuke / 先付け
– Boiled Octopus and Shrimp marinated with Rice Vinegar, Chinese Broccoli (Nanohana) topped with a Kinome Herb (Seasonal)
– Water Shield (Junsai/seasonal), Boiled Abalone (Awabi), Chopped Yam (Tataki Yamaimo) with Vinaigrette Jelly (Sudachi Jure)
– Salmon wrapped with White Kelp (Salmon Shiroita Kombu Maki) Lightly Grilled Fresh Scallop and Asparagus Dressed with Vinegar Miso and Egg York Based Paste (Kimizu)
– Herring Roe (Kazunoko) wrapped with Vinegar Jelly, Issun Mame (Issun Pea) dressed with Sesame (Goma) Sauce
Wanmori / 椀盛
– Fish Broth (Wanmori) with Aburame (Greenling/Seasonal) and Homemade Fried Tofu topped with Myoga (Japanese Ginger) and Kinome Herb (Seasonal)
Mukouzuke / 向附
– Belly Part of Fluke (Engawa), Fluke (Hirame), Torigai (A Leaf Shaped Clam), Tuna (Maguro), Squid (Ika), Seaurchi (UniTori) Gai Sashimi (A Leaf Shaped Clam from Japan) with In-house Blended Soy Sauce
Nakazara / 中皿
– Sushi (Fatty Tuna called TORO from Spain with hidden cut with In-house Blended Soy Sauce
Shiizakana / 強肴
– A Pickled Baby Sweetish (Koayu) in Namban Style with Shredded Onion and Lotus Root and Dried Pimento on the top
Yakizakana / 焼肴
-Grilled Barracuda (Kamasu) in Yuan Style, Grilled Japanese Eggplant (Nasu-Dengaku) with Blended Miso
Hachi / 鉢
– Monk Fish Liver Paste (Ankimo) over Simmered Daikon Radish with A Potherb Mustard (Mizuna) and Shimeji Mushroom
*Tomewan / 留椀
-Blended Miso Soup (Akadashi/Seasonal) with Shredded Scallions (Negi) and Japanese Pepper Bud (Sansho) on The Top
*Shokuji / お食事
-Benijake Salmon, Ikura and Edamame over rice
*Kounomono / 香の物
– Pickled Cucumber, Eggplant and Daikon Radish
*Tomewan, Shokuji and Kounomono are served at the same time.
Mizugashi / 水菓子
-House-Made Mango Juice, Tofu Blanc Mange, Homemade Chocolate and a Mint Leaf on The Top
We had a bottle of “Gassan no Yuki” (月山の雪) as our saké pairing with the meal.
On Saturday, I met up with Rachel and the peeps from JETAANY.org at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for the Cherry Blossom Festival (Sakura Matsuri 桜祭り). The custom of hanami (花見) or “flower viewing” in Japan is a time for celebrating spring and having picnics with friends, families and colleagues under the blossoming cherry trees.
There are some interesting points in the NY Times article I posted earlier. Having lived in Japan for over 2 and half years now and working in Japanese public schools, I can agree with most of the points.
Here in Nakatsu, the school system is still very egalitarian. Sometimes too egalitarian, at least on the surface. For example, there are strict rules about uniforms and hairstyles, (lack) of make-up, etc, but students still express their individuality (and their consumerism) with their name-brand accessories, backpacks, stationery, etc. From elementary school on through junior high (the period of compulsory education in Japan), tracking students based upon ability is strictly forbidden. That means, in my English classes at school, I have kids who don’t even know the alphabet after 3 years of English to kids who can read and write rather well, all in the same class. The teachers have to follow a strict curriculum and they plug through things, aiming at the average or below average student. This means that the students who fall behind are completely lost, and the high acheiving students are totally bored. Nobody in junior high fails anyway. Everybody is socially promoted and will graduate with their class. There are no tests to graduate junior high; the challenge is the entrance exams to get into more competitive high schools or universities.
With the “juku” system of cram schools, the supposedly egalitarian nature of the state school system is pretty much bogus anyway. The jukus are private cram schools that usually operate after school and on weekends. Since jukus are private, it costs money to send one’s children there, thus favoring those with more financial means. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with students getting tutoring to help them succeed, but the widespread juku phenomenon begs the questions: if the school system is so good, why do even the smart kids need to go to juku?
From conversations with some of my better English students, I gather that this is where much of the real learning happens anyway. So if students learn the English they need in juku to pass the exams, they can totally phase out of English class or any other classes. Remember that class attendance and junior high grades don’t matter – you will still graduate no matter what. So students never have to participate in class, even the smart ones if they don’t want to, as long as they can pass the written entrance exams to the high school of their choice.
I think that the real purpose of the compulsory school system is socialization and control. In some respects, the school system is part of the social welfare system. All students get immunizations and health exams through the school system. There is also a system of low-cost subsidized school meals. Everybody eats the same thing, including the teachers and the office staff. School is where the kids learn to “be Japanese”: how to use the proper level of respectful verb forms depending on the social context of discourse, and how many degrees of incline to bow in a given situation, how to be a group.
The public school system is very paternalistic. Schools will set rules regarding the student’s conduct outside of school in addition to the already strict rules at school. At one school I teach at, the student’s aren’t supposed to stop by the convenience store on their way to or from school to buy snacks. They aren’t supposed to be at the video game arcade after a certain time. These are rules set by the school (an extension of the state), not the kids’ parents. If a kid gets into a fight outside of school, or gets caught shoplifting, the police will call the kid’s homeroom teacher who will also likely take blame for the kid’s parents for not “teaching our child good ethics.” School days are long, and school holidays are very short compared to the US. School teachers are more than teachers, they also work as social workers and surrogate parents. Despite all the time Japanese kids spend at school, they probably don’t spend more time learning in a classroom environment than the average American student. The Japanese kids are at school, doing club activities, preparing for numerous school events like sports days, culture festivals, song contests, etc. that take up a good chunk of the school year. These activities mold kids into a collective and build up an esprit de corps. The kids can spend hours and hours preparing for sports day and culture festival during the school day because we already know that juku is where the real learning happens anyway.