At Home in Japan: What No One Tells You Teaching Guide
By Jane Bachnik
|As a virtual textbook, or as a supplement to other readings and materials, At Home in Japan: What No One Tells You maps essential terrain of contemporary Japanese culture. It places the student in an extraordinary predicament (as a guest in a Japanese home), outlines basic problems of that predicament, summarizes the cultural roots of those problems, and details how others have managed many permutations of that predicament through real-life case studies. Taken as a whole, At Home in Japan: What No One Tells You offers a rare glimpse at the multi-layered nature of Japanese culture, as experienced by sojourners from abroad.
The tutorial can be used effectively in a variety of classes and orientation programs. Below we have compiled a thumbnail set of suggestions to assist you in utilizing the tutorial in class. The guide includes the following sections:
Who Can Use This Tutorial
1.Teaching the Tutorial: Overview discussion & summary
2.Teaching Strategies for the Tutorial
Who Can Use this Tutorial
This tutorial is designed to be used either independently by students going abroad, or in conjunction with classes, where it can be used in a variety of ways. These include:
The tutorial consists of three interrelated parts. All focus on teaching cultural interaction from an experience-oriented perspective. Culture is not a set of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ (manners and customs), but lived experience. The tutorial presents an interrelated series of modules, focusing on cases, along with cultural backdrops, discussions of cross-cultural communication processes, and other aspects the reader needs to understand the cases.
The modules build on each other, so they should be approached in order until the reader has completed the tutorial. At this point s/he can move back through the modules in any order. The three parts of the tutorial, summarized below, should actually be considered as an interrelated circle:
The students in Part 3 are learning, sometimes the hard way, the "things that no one tells you". Moreover, their trial-and-error learning exemplifies and elaborates on the communication processes introduced in Part 1 and detailed in Part 2. The three parts taken as a whole are an invitation to an intercultural learning process that transcends Japan.
Suggestions for facilitating discussions in each segment of the tutorial are outlined below along with additional references to text readings, films, and web links. Discussions should be conducted after students have independently worked through the relevant parts of the tutorial.
Part 1: The Cultural Child
Part 1 develops the problem to which Parts 2 and 3 provide responses. This part also explains basic aspects of intercultural communication, which operate, no matter where one is, and which have contributed to the problem. Part 1 should be assigned and taught as a single unit, rather than a series of page segments which can be separately discussed (as is the case with the segments in the last two parts). Although Peter’s case is an actual homestay case, it is not meant to represent a “typical homestay”. Instead it is meant to give readers a window into the workings of “what no one tells you” in intercultural situations.
The tutorial opens with Module 1, The Cultural Child, introducing the theme of the tutorial, followed by a case segment, Peter's Homestay: Beginning, 2.1, introducing Peter Hauser and the Sasakis, his homestay family in Japan. The homestay is approached through different vantagepoints, showing that the Sasakis’ and Peter’s perspectives on the same homestay are very different. Following this a flash segment, Impasse, 2.2, begins an explanation of why they are different, which continues over two more flash segments (Comparing Viewpoints, 2.3, and Peter's Bind, 3.2). Interspersed with these segments is a follow-up on the homestay case, Peter's Homestay: after 3 Months, 3.1, to the end. Ultimately the homestay fails, as Peter and the Sasakis continue to view it from their different perspectives. Part 1 ends with "check lists" for both homestay guests and host families to think about motivations for doing a homestay.
Main Learning Points in Part 1:
Teaching strategies: The above themes can be approached through discussion. Suggestions here include:
3.3 Homestay Check Lists
These provide opportunities for students to think about their own motivations for doing a homestay (even if these are hypothetical) and also to find out what commonly motivates host families to invite a homestay guest. Discussion can look for common threads in the student (and host family) motivations, and think about what these mean in terms of mutual expectations for the homestay.
Part 2 details the issues raised as Core Concepts in Part 1:
These two issues are closely linked. What the cultural child needs to know to grow is precisely what no one thinks to tell her. This means that she needs to learn how to infer the things that are “unsaid” (but expected to be understood) in Japanese communication.
Part 2 focuses on two sets of cultural distinctions that are crucial for navigating human relationships in Japan: tatemae/honne and uchi/soto. Simple translations of these terms do not suffice. They must be pieced together from seeing how they operate in a variety of contexts. Both of these two sets of terms differentiate between what is “exposed” or “said,” and what is kept “hidden” or “unsaid”. Part 2 consists of three modules:
The four sections of Module 4 define and explore various facets of tatemae/honne. There is much here to discuss with students, including:
The focus here is the ubiquitous wrapping that occurs in manufactured products, gifts, clothing (such as kimono), architecture, curtains, fences & walls, shrouding of new buildings, religion, language (politeness), and social interaction (deference).
Assignments: Students (in Japan) can be assigned to find examples of wrapping they encounter in their school, neighborhood, or other environments. These can then be discussed.
4.2 Being a Guest
Wrapping is related to treatment of guests, who are cushioned, or “wrapped” in Japan. This subject is also closely linked to the homestay context, and also addressed in Module 7.1, Being a 'Good Guest'. (The modules should be read in chronological order, however, and the link made back from Module 7.1.)
Discussion Suggestions: Students can look again at Peter’s Homestay, Beginning, Module 2.1 and relate the different perspectives to Peter’s being wrapped in tatemae versus his lack of awareness of the family’s honne.
4.3 Watch Out for That...!, plus 4.4 Avoiding Hazards Quiz
Tatemae is often hard to recognize, and it is especially easy for newcomers to Japan not to be able to read what is behind the words, and to mistake tatemae for honne. This puts the newcomer in a hazardous situation, where the ground (which appeared to be solid) can suddenly open up beneath you, or you can encounter a variety of hazards of which you were perfectly unaware.
Discussion Suggestion: Go through Module 4.4, Avoiding Hazards Quiz, and discuss the reasons why the answers are right (or wrong) in the quiz. Many of the “wrong” answers are educational as well, as they are linked in various ways to the “right answer”.
|Module 5: Uchi/Soto|
The four sections explain and define uchi/soto (inside/outside distinctions). These distinctions can be linked to the tatemae/honne distinctions of Module 4, which they expand upon.
5.1 Being Outside: Uchi/Soto Distinctions
This section explores “wrapping” or deference distinctions in language, and shows the difference between language use to a guest and between members of the same “inside” group. The two clips are meant to present a contrast, showing that different words are used in Japanese for what would be the same word in English (for example, ‘come’, ‘go’, ‘is’). The selection of these words indexes the relationships between the participants in the conversation (for example, as insider speaking to outsider/guest, or between insiders speaking among themselves).
Assignments and Discussion Suggestions: Look at the video clips in class and discuss the three “clues” in the text which ask for comparisons of a various communication modes indicating uchi versus soto in the clips. These are very valuable tools to alert students to non-verbal communication in Japan that might otherwise elude them. If your students are in Japan, ask them to listen to conversations of people they can overhear (in trains, restaurants, for example). How much can they tell about the relationship between the people conversing? What communication modes gave them clues about the relationships? If students abroad have access to Japanese TV programs, orfilms, they can do this exercise as well.
5.2 Country House, 5.3 City House, 5.4 Where to Put the Guests?
These segments take up uchi/soto distinctions which are designed and built into the use of space in the family house. Two different houses are compared: a country house and a city house. Although the country house is very old and has far more space available, the family members of the new suburban city house use their space in a remarkably similar way.
The two sections in this module focus on being “inside” a Japanese group, and are usually the most difficult in the tutorial for students to grasp. But this only underscores their importance. The reasons for their difficulty (at least for U.S. and European students) are basic differences that exist in the relationship of the individual to the group in Japan versus the U.S. and European countries. This module can be taken up following module 5. If it is not fully understood, continue to Part 3. Then return to this module in conjunction with the relevant sections in Part 3 sections (especially Module 8).
6.1 From ‘I’ to ‘Uchi’
From ‘I’ to ‘uchi’ continues the discussion of language use that was begun in Module 5.1. The main point of 6.1 is that a speaker’s anchorpoint in English conversation is ‘I’, and that a conversation shifts constantly between the speaker (who becomes ‘I’) and the listener (who becomes ‘you’). Japanese conversations, on the other hand, are not anchored by ‘I’ (in spite of the fact that a number of words exist for ‘I’), but rather by uchi. Uchi is an anchorpoint that is occupied by more than one person; uchi is my group, and a homestay family is also an uchi. The shift that occurs in English between ‘I’ and ‘you’ occurs in Japanese at the boundary between uchi and soto. Making correct anchorpoint distinctions is crucially important in speaking and interacting appropriately in Japan. But because these are very basic (and largely unaware) it requires a conscious effort to leearn the correct use of uchi. Homestay guests share the anchorpoint of their hosts as well, and they are expected to understand the social expectations of uchi (which are most confounding to the students in Part 3).
Discussion Suggestions: The correct use of anchorpoint is very important in speaking Japanese and students who simply carry over their use of 'I' in English into Japanese (or their counterparts in other languages) are speaking Japanese badly. For example, starting every sentence with 'watashi' (as a counterpart to 'I') is not natural Japanese. Japanese use ‘I’ words (such as ‘watashi’) quite rarely.
Assignment: (for students in Japan) Pay attention to Japanese conversing around you (on the train, in a coffee shop, on the street). Count how many times two people in a conversation use any word for ‘I’ (watashi, boku, ore, etc.) during the course of 10 minutes of eavesdropping. Students not in Japan could watch film or TV segments and do the same exercise.
6.2 Being Inside: Uchi Dynamics
This page discusses social dynamics inside uchi, focusing especially on relationships between husband and wife to each other and the rest of the family.
Discussion Suggestions: This section is closely linked to gender issues, and to the okaasan (mother’s) role in the family. It is important (especially for the homestay guest) to understand her family role within the context of uchi, and this section is crucial for grasping Module 7.3 Understanding Family Dynamics.
Additional Resources:Other readings that shed light on uchi dynamics:
|Part 3: Growing Pains. . . and Gains|
Part 3 responds to the two major questions posed by the tutorial:
Part 3 consists of 4 modules, which trace out a trajectory of becoming familiar with Japan, illustrated through the process of the homestay student’s encounter with the host family. Those living and working in Japan, will likely encounter these same kinds of cultural hurdles, whether or not they are in homestays.
The homestay notebook entries speak especially to the second question, by laying out the process of cultural learning that happens over the course of a homestay where guest and host are both working at understanding each other. Here the organization of the modules is set up to illustrate the progression of the learning process. Thus, Module 7.1 takes up the cultural issues that one encounters first, and so on through Module 9. This progression assumes that guest and hosts manage to learn what is necessary to overcome each cultural hurdle, so that the learning process is cumulative. (For example, a guest needs to understands what “being a guest” involves, in Module 7.1), in order to be able to begin to understand the family and shift beyond the guest role (7.2 and 7.3) The cumulative nature of the process also makes the rewards much greater, so that the guest entries in Module 9 portray very different relationships with their host families than the entries in Module 7. All of these points about the cultural learning process offer wonderful material for discussion.
The Module sections in Part 3 are also linked to the sections of Part 2. In fact, the Part 2 sections are organized to provide explanations for the Part 3 case segments. They can be accessed again when students are working through the case modules, to aid students in understanding the notebook entries. In this way the study process can work like real life experiences, where a person experiencing something (or being told about the experience) then tries to make sense of it.
Outline of the Content Organization in Part 3
Modules 7-9 portray the cultural learning process for students abroad over the course of a one-semester homestay in Japan. The diary entries generally portray students (and host families) who are managing to survive the cultural learning process, although not all the students manage to form close relationships with their families, and some don’t get very far at all. This too, is a topic for discussion. Module 10 takes up the subject of homestay cases that fail (meaning that the guest leaves before the homestay period is over), including how a guest can assess the homestay, and what to do if one needs to leave.
Following Module 10 all of the cases are assembled in the ‘Homestay Gallery” so students can reference each student’s learning experience over the course of his or her homestay.
Teaching Suggestions for Part 3 Modules
Part 3 is already set up to facilitate teaching in the following ways:
Suggested teaching strategies: Have students read the cases on their own and answer the discussion questions themselves. Then use class time to hold discussions on these same questions. This helps students put together a subject that can't be learned by simple “right” and “wrong” answers. (The task is more like having to put together the pieces of a live puzzle, sometimes while one is living in it). The questions at the end of each segment are set up to facilitate students in building cumulative knowledge, as well as in linking the issues in Part 3 to the Part 2 Modules.
Below are the module sections, and their content subjects for Part 3. Content links to Part 2 are spelled out as well.
|Module 7: First Steps|
Takes up with the process of entry into a Japanese relationship context (here a homestay) and the first steps involved in relating to one's new context.
7.1 Being a “Good Guest”
deals with guesthood, a very important subject in Japanese society. What does being a “good guest” involve? What is negotiable (and what is not) for a guest? 7.1 brings up issues that relate back to Part 2, especially Modules 4.1 and 4.2. In fact, all the segments in Modules 4 and 5 are necessary to understand the issues—and the cases—in 7.1
7.2 Beyond the Entry Point
takes up the initial steps the longterm guest must take in adjusting to the new situation. How does one begin to accommodate oneself to the family? How much of this is negotiated mutually between guest and family? For 7.2 not only are modules 4 & 5 necessary to understand the cases, but Module 6 (both segments) as well.
7.3 Understanding the Family
Another initial step in adjusting is becoming aware of the new situation, especially the relationships in the family. What does one need to know about a Japanese family to be successful in a homestay? This segment focuses particularly on the roles of otoosan and okaasan (father and mother). It links especially to Module 6.2, although it also requires comprehension of all the other Part 2 modules as well. (If students haven’t managed to grasp the previous modules, they can be revisited and related to the discussions on the cases during Part 3). The issues in these modules can be included in the Part 3 discussions as well.
Module 7 Additional Readings:
|Being a Good Guest
(See Module 4.2 readings)
|Understanding the Family
Takes up the guest’s further accommodations to the family and revolves around understanding uchi, one of the most important things that no one explains to you, but everyone expects you will already know. The 4 sections in Module 8 each delineate various facets of this hazard.
8.1 Shifting to Uchi
details encounters which produce sudden shifts whereupon the soto guest suddenly moves much farther into uchi. These shifts are not fortuitous, but require specific circumstances to take place. This segment links especially to those in module 6.
8.2 Uchi Hazards
details situations where guests encounter hazards of which they were unaware, and which run contrary to their own cultural bubbles. This module also links to Module 6.
8.3 You Can’t Escape Uchi
is closely linked to 6.1 and the Module 5 segments, and deals with the pervasiveness of uchi as an anchorpont. Uchi is crucial for understanding relationships with soto people (outside uchi) as well. Nor can one escape uchi; for example, by making relationships outside one’s host family. Even relationships with friends include aspects of uchi, as the cases in this section make clear.
8.4 Messages You Can Rely on
presents a seemingly bizarre facet of uchi communication, which is nonetheless useful. Although direct communication is difficult in Japan, even within uchi; on certain occasions, public situations (in front of others) can be used as a venue to speak directly about private matters that would otherwise be difficult to communicate. These are honne messages that one can rely on. This module is linked especially to 4.3, 4.4, and both segments of Module 6.
Module 8 Additional Readings
|You Can’t Escape Uchi
|Messages You Can Rely On
|Module 9: Deepening Contact|
presents developments in cultural learning that happen when one has been accepted enough by the family to have created close relationships, and become something of a family"member".
9.1 Getting into Gear
Pivotal situations, in which a conflict or barrier is overcome, whose resolution brings the guest into a close, sustained relationship with the family. This module requires a grasp of the issues in Modules 4-8.
9.2 Meeting the “Rest of the Family”
Meeting elusive, but important members of the family—the ancestors. It takes awhile to get to the point where one can “meet” the ancestors.
9.3 Good-bye is not Farewell
Making close relationships has consequences:they endure after the homestay ends.
Module 9 Additional Readings
|Meeting the "Rest of the Family" focuses on the family ancestors.
|Module 10: When the Homestay Isn't Working|
Module 10 takes up the subject of homestay cases that fail (meaning that the guest leaves before the homestay period is over). Here the guest needs to check out whether the homestay is going badly. How does s/he assess the homestay accurately? At what point can the situation involve problems that are beyond cultural understanding? And at this point what should the guest do?
10.1 It Sometimes Happens
discusses how a guest can assess when things aren't going well in a homestay, includes cases and discussion points on cases that didn't go well, and includes a set of safeguards to look for in a well-set-up homestay. There are many good discussion points on differentiating a potential learning situation from one which has genuine problems. This section can also be related to the check lists in Module 3.3.
10.2 If All Else Fails
Concrete directions for what to do if one needs to leave the homestay, moving from warning signs to going out the door.
Finale: Homestay Gallery
The Gallery is a page where all the case segments have been collected for each student, so the reader can follow out each student’s experiences over the course of his or her homestay. The Gallery ends with a list of questions for the learner, which bring the issues back to the themes introduced in Part 1, posed earlier. The learner is urged to think about the “cultural child” at the end of Part 3:
|Has the child now “grown up” in any sense? And if so, how?|
|Has the child learned any of the things you need to know but no one tells you? What kinds of things are these?|
|And finally, is there any relationship between "growing up" and learning the things no one tells you? All of these are important discussion issues.|