I can’t believe…

Outside of Hokuto City, in greater Yamanashi, there exist a number of other English teachers who strive to impart their mother tongue on the Japanese populace.  Some work in public institutions like I do; others are employed by private companies that operate language schools throughout the prefecture.  On an online forum for English teachers in Yamanashi, these sensei were asked to complete the sentence “I can’t believe…”.  The following is a collection of our reflections on living and working in Japan.  Many of these comments echo my own experiences, but some of them are cultural situations that I’m glad I haven’t yet had to partake in.

I can’t believe that when one of my students saw a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., he said with confidence, "Eddie Murphy".

I can’t believe that I actually berate myself for forgetting to take my shoes off inside, even at my own house.

I can’t believe how much packaging the Japanese use on fruit. I mean, they don’t even eat the skin, so why do they have to put an apple on a tray, wrap it in plastic and put it in a box? While we’re on it, I can’t believe Japanese don’t eat the skin of an apple, but they eat the skin of a fish.

I can’t believe that the Japanese wear masks to stop the spread of disease, but they don’t use hot water or soap.

I can’t believe one of my 9th-grade boys has enough pink in his wardrobe to rival an 11-year old girl.

I can’t believe that I was hit by three elementary students on my way to school today when I don’t even teach at their school.

I can’t believe that the entire teachers’ room just cleared out without any explanation. 

I can’t believe that on the way home after my adult evening class, my 71-year-old student suggested at 10pm that we stop off for a quick drink and some karaoke.


I can’t believe I found out that my JTE was calling me by the wrong name because she didn’t want to sound "stuck up." She told me that by having too good English pronunciation, it’s considered not having group spirit because you are sticking out. 

I can’t believe my student just sent me this text: “in japanese girl wants to do sexual thing when go out with boy.  what about american girl?"

I can’t believe I had a boy who wore a shirt that said “Love Girl” in flowery 60’s letters.  The boy turned out to be a girl, though, so I guess it’s not that weird.  Oh, and I can’t believe how many of the girls turn out to be boys and how many of the boys turn out to be girls.

I can’t believe all the random change I had lying on my kitchen table amounted to $240.  

I can’t believe that my apartment is so cold that I see little icicles on my windows .

I can’t believe that NHK News, during the half time of the Super Bowl broadcast, showed the highlights of not just the first half, but the WHOLE GAME.

I can’t believe that the students at my schools actually have "manners" class twice a week. I’m not sure what they are taught exactly, but I know they aren’t taught to eat with their mouth shut.


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