Me: Japan, what’s a juku?

Japan: A juku?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: It’s a cram school. Kids go to them to study.

Me: So it’s a school?

Japan: Sort of. It’s extra school. Small private schools after school. I’ve got loads of them.

Me: And kids go there to study more?

Japan: Oh yeah. More study. They go to regular school and then lots of kids study more, later at night.

Me: And this is for the kids that are getting left behind in normal school?

Japan: No.

Me: So, it’s for kids that are super smart and need extra classes to fill their massive brains?

Japan: No.

Me: So which unfortunate kids go to these private extra cram school classes?

Japan: Well, most kids really.

Me: Most kids?

Japan: Yeah, pretty much.

Me: Why?

Japan: To study more, like i said.

Me: Well, what’s wrong with your normal schools?

Japan: Nothing.

Me: Nothing?

Japan: No, just normal schools, you know? 40 kids per class, all over-worked and under-slept, lacking in motivation, overflowing with homework, tests to prepare for, boring teachers to listen to which makes them sleep in class. You know, school.

Me: School in a prison in the 1970s?

Japan: Huh?

Me: Hang on, sleep in class?

Japan: Yeah, sleep in class.

Me: Why? How?

Japan: Well, because it’s mind numbing isn’t it?

Me: So, why don’t you make it interesting?

Japan: Because it’s school. It’s not meant to be interesting. You’re just meant to do it.

Me: And these juku things. Do kids sleep there as well?

Japan: No. Well, maybe. But juku is where you go to cram extra study into your head after you’ve spent all day jumping through hoops at school until you take your exam.

Me: Exam?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Don’t you mean “take your exams”?

Japan: No. Exam. Until you take your exam.

Me: What exam?

Japan: The University Entrance Exam. The all singing, all dancing most important exam you’ll ever take in your life. Ever. Forever. When you’re 18.

Me: So, no pressure then. What subjects are on this one time only, life-deciding, soul-eating, teenage exam?

Japan: All of them.

Me: All of them? All the subjects?

Japan: Yeah, more or less. That’s really why all the kids go to juku as well as school. They cram all the subjects into one head as quickly as possible and then regurgitate it into one exam that will determine the university they can go to and the subject they study and, as a consequence, possibly the job and life they might lead as a result.

Me: And you put your young people through this because…?

Japan: Erm…well it’s…

Me: Does it produce a nation of geniuses capable of creativity and critical analysis at the cutting edge of edginess, probing science into new areas of previously unknown wonder?

Japan: Er…

Me: Is it because you like to have people in a semi-comatose, emotionally drained and slightly burnt out state by the age of 18?

Japan: No…it’s…a…

Me: Good practice?

Japan: Huh?

Me: Good practice.

Japan: For what?

Me: Working life?

Japan: Well…er…Yeah! Yeah, that’s it, sure. It’s practice for a working life.

Me: So, people spend all day sitting around listening to somebody older than them talking and talking and then talking some more and you just…

Japan: Just appease people. Work hard even when you’re not really working hard and…

Me: And wait for the boss to leave or…

Japan: Or have a cheeky power nap and then…

Me: Then more hoop jumping until…

Japan: Until the boss finally goes home so you work like mad until you can barely drag your carcass of a body to a home and a bed and then…

Me: Then, you do it all over again the next day.

Japan: Exactly.

Me: School.

Japan: And juku.

Me: Giving you the perfect education.

Japan: For life you never knew you wanted.

Me: …

Japan: …

Me: You do realise that in England this kind of over-working of kids might be a child protection issue? Social services would probably get involved. And we don’t have juku.

Japan: …?

Me: …

Japan: Shut up and study something.


January 24, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.


Japan: Are you ok? You look terrible.

Me: I feel pretty sick. Really crap actually. Where can i see a doctor?

Japan: At a hospital.

Me: I might go there now.

Japan: No, you can’t do that.

Me: Why not?

Japan: It’ll be closed.

Me: Closed?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Why will it be closed?

Japan: It’s after 6pm.

Me: …?

Japan: What?

Me: Why is it closed after 6pm?

Japan: Because that’s what time hospitals close.

Me: Hospitals? Close? Hospitals close?

Japan: Yeah, why not? They’ve got doctors and nurses working in them. They’re high pressure, responsible jobs. They can’t work all the time.

Me: Remind me what time, exactly, your convenience stores close.

Japan: Erm…well…

Me: So i can buy a newspaper, an ice cream and a bottle of whiskey right now but i can’t go to the hospital?

Japan: Can’t you just wait?

Me: Do i have a choice?

Japan: Well, not really. But it’s not my fault. You’re the one who got sick outside of normal hospital working hours.

Me: So what happens if people get sick at the weekend?

Japan: Why would you get sick at the weekend? The hospital isn’t open.

Me: But –

Japan: Just wait until the week day. Wednesday’s are good. I think Monday’s are quite busy as they’re full of people who’ve been waiting all weekend to get sick.

Me: No. They’ve been waiting all weekend to go to the hospital.

Japan: But you can’t go to the hospital at the weekend.

Me: I know –

Japan: They’re not open.

Me: Yeah –

Japan: So you can’t be sick.

Me: This is nuts. What happens if i break a leg?

Japan: Call an ambulance.

Me: Where will they take me?

Japan: The hospital.

Me: Won’t it be shut?

Japan: Well, only if you’re stupid enough to break your leg when the hospitals are closed. Anyway, big major hospitals with accident and emergency wards will stay open. You know, for those idiots who have unforeseen injuries outside the specified Get Sick Period of 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Me: Will anybody be there?

Japan: Yeah, sure, probably, why not, fingers crossed, good luck.

Me: …

Japan: What now?

Me: …

Japan: What!?

Me: I still feel really sick.

Japan: Well, that cheap convenience store whiskey isn’t going anywhere. Sleep on it. You’ll be fine tomorrow. It’s a weekday.

January 7, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.