An Anthropologist in Japan by Hendry J.

By Hendry J.

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It was an attractive location, with a feeling of space I had found altogether lacking in the first school we had been offered, a newer one with modern buildings and all conveniences, but situated in a limited location near the centre of town. The daily journey my children would need to make would also have been much less interesting. It was a great relief, then, when the teachers of Toyama Primary School were not only expecting my visit, but also apparently happy to offer the children a place. The headmaster was away that first day, but Mr Tanaka, my neighbour’s nephew, was there waiting with the deputy head, and they were most solicitous in their attentions.

This reminded me of the kata or bodily ‘shapes’ used by actors in Kabuki, and on the positions taught in classical ballet, also currently popular in Japan. It was undoubtedly a very effective way to learn, for my classmates made good progress, but it was interesting to observe the subtle differences in learning methods. After the class each week, we would sit around a table and chat for a while, sipping our energy-giving drinks, such as the notorious Pocari Sweat, and putting back any weight we might have lost by eating delicacies that someone would bring along.

The fictional characters, who were said to bear little relation to historical fact, had become the focus of tourist attention in this area, made famous through the medium of entertainment, and a large map at the bottom of the hill also directed visitors to the Satomi family grave, as well as to sites identified with well-known parts of the story. The castle itself had been constructed only a few years ago, though the name Shiroyama, meaning ‘castle hill’, suggested that it was the site of an original one.

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