A visit to a public school in Japan…

Written by Lorna Shapiro

Mariko is a public school English teacher in Japan who lived with us for several months when she spent a year in Vancouver studying English.  She is quite remarkable, having made the year long trip to Vancouver after recovering from treatment for ovarian cancer.  She is cancer-free today.  While here, she took up salsa dancing, which she happily continues to enjoy back in Japan… leaving her husband to fend for himself on the evenings she goes to classes.  She is not your stereotypical Japanese wife and mother, and she is delightful and a dear friend.  We visited on several occasions during my trip to Japan, and I suggested it would be good for her high school English conversation students to have the chance to talk to me about Canada… and that we could do that if I visited her class one day.  She was delighted with the suggestion and my visit was arranged.  She kicked off the class with a powerpoint presentation of pictures from her time in Vancouver and at our home.  The students were by turns amazed and amused at the things they learned about Canada through this discussion.  Amusing to them was that our public washrooms have doors that do not run floor to ceiling, and that often do not have a red “occupied” indicator, causing us women to walk along the row of stalls looking under the doors for feet to determine if a stall is free or not.  Amazing to them was the size of our kitchen.  The first question they asked, when given free run, was “what is the food for which BC is best known”… this is a very Japanese question.  The last question I was asked, as they left the classroom, was by a group of young girls who wanted to know if I knew Justin Bieber… this I think is a universal young teenage girl question 🙂