So apparently my name is very difficult for Japanese people to understand. For starters, they don’t generally hear it right. Probably around 5% of my elementary schoolers (used to be around 20%) thought my name was Jackson. A stubborn 3 percent persist in calling me Jackson-sensei, or even Michael Jackson-sensei, and upon occasion, Michael Jason-sensei, repeatedly. More on these kids in a minute.
The real problem, however, lies in the fact that the only Jason that Japanese people have ever heard of is the one from the Friday the 13th movies. I’ve met random Japanese people who, upon hearing my name, take a couple steps back and nervously make chainsaw-revving motions with a questioning look on their face. Truth be told, I think their minds sort of subconsciously gravitate towards something else. Hence, Jackson.
Now, the kids that are calling me Michael Jason are the only problem kids I’ve had so far. Of the approximately 1000 students I teach, 99.9% are wonderful, upbeat, good-hearted kids. It’s just these three 5th-graders at my elementary school who are a little overly hyper.
They first got my attention after their school’s undoukai. They see me walking home and yell, “Jackson-sensei!” and starts walking along with me. As I’m talking to them, they start making fun of my Japanese, which is fine, because at this point, I’ve taken to speaking quickly with a lot of mistakes rather than slowly and correctly. It’s usually understandable, if broken. But all this is fine, fairly normal; as I’ve learned, kids don’t have a ton of tact.
They next ask me if I like Baba-sensei, their unfortunately-named teacher. Baba-sensei is around 28, pretty nice, very good at judo, and has a name that is also slang for “hag” or “bullshit.” Even translated, her family name means something like “Horseplace,” which isn’t super-glamorous. Anyway, I just pull the whole, “Wait, which one’s Baba-sensei?” and they give up on that line of thinking.
But I keep walking and they keep following me, and soon we’re at my apartment. And these kids aren’t leaving. They want to come inside, which I won’t do, on principle. It’s really cluttered, uninteresting, and has a faint smell of mold I’m trying to get rid of. They interpret my resistance to mean I have a girlfriend up there. Possibly two or three.
So they start assailing my apartment. For fifteen minutes. These kids really stop at nothing, hiding in the garbage, pretending to leave around 5 times, crawling up the stairs, etc. They just won’t leave. I just stand there and stop talking to them, and eventually they take off, and I get my shower. All this is fine.
And then today one of them kanchoed me.
For the uninitiated, kancho is like the Japanese wedgie. It basically is a two-handed poke up someone’s rear. It didn’t hurt so much as surprised me, that someone was poking my ass. So I put my arm around the kid and pulled him close, with my arm around his neck, and leaned sideways to lift him an inch or two off the ground. I told him, “Dame desu yo” (“that is forbidden”), and let him back down. I don’t think that’s going to deter him. If he does it again, I’m going to completely shift my speech patterns into yakuza territory, rolling my Rs and yelling a lot, and start threatening his life.
Later in class, the same kid insisted on calling me Michael Jason, after I told him my name was Jason. So I told him, since I have a new name, he does too. His new name is Baka-chan. All the other kids in the class started calling him that. I told him once he starts calling me Jason, he can have his old name back. Kind of a Spirited Away dealie.
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