The Name Problem

It only took 2 and a half months to make my first real post. Yeesh.

But that’s neither here nor there.

I have now been living in Japan for 5.5 months. To the day.

I have taught, without exaggeration, over 2000 students. No, that isn’t a typo; I do mean two thousand. That number includes 20 elementary schools and three private schools.

Of those students, I could name 40. Maybe. There is one class that has a Yuki, a Yutaro, a Yuji, and a Yusuke, and I could be wrong about the Yuji. I had another class wherein two unrelated girls had identical names, though I do not recall what the name was.

Apparently, this is not uncommon, as there were no family names here until the last couple of centuries. When the family name thing became a common thing, they just chose cool sounding names like Takahashi (“high bridge”), Kurosawa (“black swamp”), Ishikawa (“stone/rocky river”), Suzuki (“bell tree”), or Tanaka (“ricefield middle” or “in the ricefield”). In the preceding list are 3 of the top five most common surnames in Japan. Anyways, you get the point. To top this off, certain personal names go in and out of style (as it is in Canada), so I meet masses of Yukis, Akanes, and Hirokis. Not to mention the Asukas and Yunas.

So yeah, lots of kids with similar names in a language with which I am still largely unfamiliar.

As a result, I am proudest of the names I do remember from the public schools. It’s a matter of professionalism for me to remember my private students’ names, but in the public schools it’s different. I will often have classes of 25 or more students. One of the first things I teach (and which I make a point of reinforcing every few classes) is how to say “My name is…”. So, on some occasions, I have had 130 students in a day tell me their names. As an added bonus, on many occasions I do not see these students again for a month (or, in some cases, ever).


Sometimes there are students who go out of their way to reinforce their names for me. Two in particular come to mind: Yuki, a grade four student, and Shou, a grade one student, both of Isawadaiichi elementary school. The elder boy made a point of repeating his name to me several times, I repeated it, and I have never forgotten it. Little Shou did something similar, except for location. In Yuki’s case, I was wandering around the playground during recess, just smiling at and greeting the children when he chose to approach me and give his name. Shou, however, chose to approach me and introduce himself in the teacher’s office every time I visited the school for the first few months, in addition to introducing himself every time I was with his class. Shou is not a pretty child, but he is very energetic and very bright. Unfortunately, these seem to combine to also make him very loud.

Still, as one of the few elementary children whose name I know, he has a fond place in my heart.


~ by truth9 on January 31, 2007.

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