15 February 2011

Who is your daddy, and what does he do?

I had a private lesson with a 16 year old girl today and it prompted me to finally write about something that, for a long time, I've thought is quite strange.

There are an unusual number of Japanese kids who don't know what their parents' names are, nor what their parents do for a living. Let that sink in a little. It's natural for a 5 year old to not know their dad's name, nor to know what their father does for a living. But a 16 year old girl? It's unbelievable.

I know the names of every family member I can think of, and I know what they do for a living. This 16 year old girl with whom I was talking thinks her father's name is Norimoto. Thinks! I guess this gives her an out when she gets in trouble at school and can't give her father's name to someone so they can call him, but I really can't think of how this is beneficial.

Later in the lesson we were talking about occupations and I asked what her nameless father did. She said she wasn't sure. Okay... not everyone knows exactly what their parents do at their place of work. But most know where they work. "Does he work in an office?" "Um, maybe?" Maybe!? You live with a nameless man who disappears for more than half the day and you don't know where it is this man disappears to?

This isn't an isolated incident; as I said in the beginning, this is something that has perplexed me for some time. I taught a junior high school class a couple of months ago and they were learning occupation names. Only one of the students knew what his father did (he's a pastry maker).

I get that it's rude to call your parents by their first names (at least when you're young) but I don't think it's rude to ask them their names. And unless your father is a member of the yakuza, I don't think it's unwise to ask what he does. Or at least where he works. At the very least, maybe ask the general direction he heads in when he leaves the house in the morning.

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