Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Great Persons: Sakuma Kyoutou Sensei

Because I’m leaving Japan soon, and I’m getting very sentimental about it, I’ve decided to do some posts about people here who mean a great deal to me. Japan doesn't show very well to regular tourists on a two week stint. The country and its cities aren’t very attractive. There is a sad lack of interesting architecture. Nature and the wilderness are often tamed by swarms of buses filled with over-dressed, retirees. It’s the people who have kept me here in Japan for such an unlikely period of time. So, I’m going to write about everyone who I count as close friends and admire as happy, generous souls. So, from time to time, in no particular order and without any well conceived criteria, I bring you: Great Persons in Japan!

To start our list, I trot out Sakuma Kyoutou Sensei. I first met Sakuma Sensei when I walked into Katahira JHS 3 years ago. Kyoutou Sensei means vice principal. Organizing stuff in my new desk, he came up and started asking all sorts of questions to me in English. Not speaking the tiniest bit of Japanese at the time, I was happy to answer his questions about America and myself. I quickly determined he wasn’t just using me to practice English.

During our time at Katahira, he taught me numerous things and we even taught English together on a few occasions. A former Japanese teacher, he was always willing and often downright excited to teach me Japanese. He was also never shy about speaking English, even when it wasn’t perfect. Later on, when I could speak more, he taught me all about Japanese mythology, history, Buddhist thought (he’s a devout Buddhist), and the Chinese zodiac.

On a couple of occasions, I joined his scout troop for their UNICEF fundraisers (Scouts in Japan are coed, but have a nearly identical symbol as the Boy Scouts of America). I watched in horror as unruly children shamelessly accosted innocent shoppers for charity donations.

Sakuma Kyoto Sensei is also known for his wonderful sense of humor. Taking pictures of the school for friends back home, he immediately posed with some calligraphy he had written, (making sure to hold it upside down). He drew hilarious cartoon caricatures of all the staff members, including myself. Alas, he was transferred to Otsuki JHS about a year ago, and I haven’t had the chance to talk with him much since.

Here's to a great guy. お世話になりました!

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