Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some academic stuff:

I recently opted to do a cultural activity ("the Ainu") instead of a grammar game for the second year class. Mostly because we went to the Ainu village in Hokkaido while we were there for the Sapporo Snow Festival back in February. That is in Shiraoi, and left me with mixed feelings.

The cultural game is a simple exercise in surprising students by playing a true-false (maru-batsu) game. I read a statement (oh goodness, I read it in English, with much gesturing and repetition and re-explanation with different words). In their groups, students decide if they think it's true or false, and respond on cue, collecting points if they are right.

Before settling on this game (aka, receiving it from Caito), I spent some time reading about Ainu on the internet. I ran a search on the Englipedia page which I thought would turn up culture games, since the whole reason I got to do this was the "Ainu chapter" of the kids' textbook.

For some reason, there are no cultural games listed on the webpage, but I did turn up this article, and then this one in the process.

The first pertains to communication study in Japan particularly, and how it compares to the US. I enjoyed it just because it touches on why these two societies view and undertake communication differently.

But it was the second article that really got my high on learning. I've been curious about ancient Japanese stuff, and frustrated with information only ever being focused on stuff like "Edo Period Japan" or "Nara Period" or what have you.. I mean, all that's like around 700, and I don't even mean BC. I wanted to know, dude, what was Japan doing when Rome was taking over Europe? What was Japan doing while Greeks were sackin' Troy? Obviously I haven't dug very deeply into the topic (it being but one of about six million interests, all of which currently come second to the two million immediate concerns in my life over the course of the next month or so), but I loved how this article pretty succicntly took me through some ideas of what Japan was doing, and why.

My favorite thing is the way that Jomon society lasted for about 10,000 years because why the hell not. All these other places, ridden with the burden of that motherly thing called necessity, advanced and advanced, while Japan remained a collection of hunter-gatherer societies because the trade off wasn't good enough. Why would I bust my ass to grow rice when it's not even that good, and I don't even have to be a nomad to hunt and gather (and to some extent, cultivate nearby nutritious plants) to my heart's content. I like also that the hunter-gatherer Japanese had one of the best ancient diets around; Japanese food was healthy, even then.

I mean, I get that the article is supposed to be about genetic descent and origins, which is also interesting, but this whole way of life thing is just great, to me. Reading about the ancient landscape and climate makes me think, oh man, that's why Japan is so beautiful. It's pretty much the Garden of Eden. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Roman poet, starry-eyed for the Golden Age of Saturn. I (like Ovid?) am aware that we got it pretty good, right now, and am in no way advocating the idea that their way of life was something I'd prefer to this one... I just think it's great that they had it so good for so long, that compared with almost everywhere else, there was no need to change.


There's a kofun just south of town, called the Shiono Rokkaku Kofun (Shiono hexagonal ancient mound thingy). The sign says it is one of the earliest discovered kofun in Japan. My camera broke just before I wandered up there, so here are some photos from the prefecture. It's exactly as I remember it.

Go forth and learn some ancient stuff.

PS: The Ainu game was such a success, I was asked to produce a Maori game today for the 3rd year class. It went over surprisingly well.


  1. I think it's so cool to think about what other cultures and societies were up to waaaaay back when, and frankly, I think it presents a problem with current historical education. We learn about world history and all the important events that happened throughout, but there never really seems to be a sense of cohesion. You learn about this, and then that, and then that. There's no connecting of the dots, so to speak. My dad is the first person who brought this issue to my attention, and he related it to music. I took music history courses and learned about all the composers and what was going on wherever at whatever time, but it was only related to music. I was never taught that Mozart was alive and composing during the Revolutionary War. If you think about the dates, duh, but it puts it into perspective, just like you did with the Jomon society and Greek and Roman history. :) Very cool to learn. Btw, is there any way you could send me a link to those articles? I'd be interested in reading them.

  2. Whoops! Observant much? :)