Posted by: wesleysensei | October 23, 2008

Miscommunication and Wasting Nenkyu [plus: My First Japanese Movie Theater Experience]

Ok, so as a teacher in Japan I get vacation days which are called Nenkyu. As a JET I actually have it better than the Japanese teachers because I get 20 days of Nenkyu! This means that 20 times when I’m supposed to go to work I can decide not go in but still get paid. Some JETs use Nenkyu irresponsibly and ditch without notice or during important school events. I had not planned to do either one of those, however, on Tuesday of this week I did.

This past weekend the teachers went in on Saturday and Sunday for the chorus concert (see “From Tokyo to Osato: A Concert Weekend”). I knew that Monday was a comp day and there was no school to make up for Sunday. As for the Saturday, well I had taken Nenkyu so I could go to the concert in Tokyo. Now, I had arranged for that and got it approved by kocho-sensei (the principle). I assumed that because there were two days when the teachers went in that there would be two days to be made up. This has happened in the past so that’s what I expected.

Monday night I set my alarm to wake up on time to get ready for school just in case I did have to go; I didn’t want to be the type of JET to ditch out on work unexpectedly. I called Osato Junior High School before school started and got a teacher that doesn’t speak English. Naturally, I asked for the JTEs and then the kyoto-sensei who also speaks some English. Of course neither was around. It was time to practice my Japanese that I have (sort of) been studying.

I said to the teacher on the phone, “kyo wa chugako de ikimasu ka?” I recognized that the words were sort of right but the grammar was all wrong and probably the delivery too. The sentence basically says “I go to school today?” I was trying to ask if I had to come into school today. At first I thought there definitely was school because someone was there; however, the response I got changed my mind. He said “dame” (pronounced da-may) which means a host of things but all negative ones like “stop” and “no.” I asked again this time in English and got a similar response. Convinced there was no school I went back to bed.

The next day when I got to school my JTE asked me where I was yesterday. Immediately I knew what was coming. It was confirmed when my kyoto-sensei came up to me and said something about me taking Nenkyu. I tried to explain what happened and my JTE knew right away. Apparently in Japan yes means no and no means yes. Doh!! Which meant that the teacher on the phone was basically saying “no, don’t come to school” which meant “come to school.”

I was charged 7 hours of Nenkyu and essentially am now down to 18 days. Though I am kinda bummed about wasting a day I’m more bummed about appearing like a lazy ALT that just decides not to go to work. Hopefully word got around about the miscommunication.

In other news, I went to my first movie in Japan. You may have heard but movies here are very expensive! I thought the $8.50 back home was pushing it but in places like Tokyo you’re looking to pay about 2500 Yen (~$25). My town of Osato does not have high ticket prices because, well, we don’t have a movie theater. The town just south, Rifu, is a suburb of Sendai City and has a lot of commercial activity.

Thanks to my sweet Suzuki Wagon R (see “Fast and the Furious: Osato Drift”) I have been able to explore the surrounding area and discovered the little gem, Rifu. Tonight I went there to look around and found an pizza place; the corn and pork pie was delicious. Right next to the restaurant was a big movie theater called MOVIX. I checked the times and saw my only options in English were Eagle Eye or P.S. I Love You. The rest of the movies were going to be in Japanese.

I chose Eagle Eye (IMDB) because it was a loud, senseless action flick. There was no one in the lobby of the theater and the place seemed abandoned. Sure it’s a Thursday night but I wonder how the place must stay in business. Anyway, I went to get my ticket and was presented with a layout of the theater showing the movie. The clerk asked me if it was my first time and after saying yes he explained what I was to do. In a Japenese movie theater you buy a seat in the theater not just a ticket. I picked my seat: J-19, which was about dead center.

I went into the theater to find about four to six people and headed to my assigned seat. The sound system in the theater was incredible and the seats were roomy and comfortable. I’d have to say it was one of the nicer theater’s I’ve gone to. Even though the movie was mediocre the experience was exceptional. I will definitely be going back to the theater and to Rifu.

Oh, and the ticket was only 1300 Yen.

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