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Japanese Ways



No matter how many times you knock him  down, he  keeps on  getting up.

The old saint Daruma sat in meditation so long that he lost the use of his feet.

Anthropologist Gail R. Benjamin writes about  school in Japan based on her one-year observations and her two enrolled children in Okubo East Elementary School. It may not be what you expect. We read comments about Japanese obsession with education and kyoiku mamas or education mamas who press their little ones into hypercompetition. 

The author dispels some of the authoritarian notions we have about the Japanese education, at least at the elementary school levels. Hedrick Smith, in his surveys of various world education  systems also reported on their freewheeling approach in Japan in the early grades. The kids in Japan appear to be less regimented in the classroom that they are here in the good old USA. Surprise.

Czech out her book Japanese Lessons: A Year in a Japanese School through the Eyes of an American Anthropologist and Her Children in our book store.
Japanese Characters Aplenty

If you want to read or write Japanese on your PC  with Windows 95/98 or NT, than you can download from the Microsoft site their Global IME browser, which works nicely. You key in romanji letters that convert to hiragana, katakana, or kanji depending on your selections using displayed tabs and the space bar. You hit 'Enter' to input the selected word into your document. You can also display the characters from Japanese sites. The good news is that it is free. The bad news is that you have to know Japanese.


It was the great Japanese, mystical poet Basho who transformed the Japanese 17-syllable, three-line poem into a sophisticated art of  metaphorical composition. The story goes that while he was walking in the fields with a pupil and observing nature, the pupil composed a verse:

Red dragon flies!
take off their wings
and they are pepperpods!

"That's not haiku," said the master. If you want haiku, you have to say:

Red pepperpods!
add wings to them,
and they become dragon flies!

Gary Snyder says that:  

A good haiku possesses clarity, physical qualities, descriptions that you can smell or taste or feeling, and has not just an image but one that makes a leap that surprises you.

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