By Ruth Gomes, age 13.
Ruth is our granddaughter who lives in Japan
with her pastor missionary dad and family.

Depression is something "common" in Japan. Due to the difficulty in learning the Japanese language, many Brazilians have been here a long time and still don`t know how to communicate. Many people feel abandoned... this happens, not only with Brazilians, but also with the Japanese. Japan is such a sophisticated country, but many people do not know God and do not have real joy that is found only in Jesus Christ.  Many Brazilians who are here are factory workers; few finish middle school and they end up losing a good notion of things, to the point that many of those Brazilians who study in Japanese schools are illiterate in both languages.

Many Brazilians living here do not care about religion and such things. Once, talking to a Brazilian kid in school, I mentioned that I go to church every Sunday, and he said that that is a waste of time. How can someone say that worshipping God is a waste of our time?! Today, in Japan, less than 1% of the population is Christian, and that It is quite normal for a person to be born a Shintoist because that is beautiful, grow as a Buddhist because it`s good for you, get married in a “Christian” church because the wedding ceremony is pompous, and die in Shintoism. Often we see buildings in the form of Christian churches,  made just for weddings. The number of Shintoist and Buddhist temples in town is incredible; temples are on the streets and altars in every home.

Japanese are very supersticious. The number 4 in Japanese is shi, which also means death. So, in many buildings there are no apartments with the number 4, nor is there a fourth floor. Japanese legends are quite peculiar, and in almost all of them these is an onique. Onique is the Japanese demon; according to the legend, usually he arrives and tries to drag the person into the underworld. Therefore, one of the rituals in festivals is to chase this demon away. For this, they hang the koinobori, which is a fish made of cloth hung outside the house. The number of koinoboris hanging outdoors varies according to the number of people who live indoors in the house.

The Japanese language has three different alphabets: hiragana,  katakana and kanji. O Hiragana is used to write normal Japanese words; Katakana is used for foreign words, and Kanji is like drawings of the words. There are many words in Japanese that have many meanings, so the kanjis serve as drawing that explain what those words are. In school, I am learning lots of Kanjis. After you get the gist of it, they help our reading a lot and are not as difficult as they seemed to be at first.

Shougakku graduation, April 17, 2017

The Japanese School system consists of three different schools, the first goes from First to Sixth grade: (shougakku). After you graduate from that, you go to another school from 7th to 9th grade (shyugakkou). After that, there is another graduation and they go to middle school (high school) from First through Third Grade (koukou). After that, few people go on to university (daigakkou). In Japanese school there are many subjects we do no have in Brazil, as, for example, home economics, which teaches how to sew, clean and arrange the home, and cook. From first grade on, the school lunch is prepared in separate buildings and then distributed to the regional school, given out from classroom to classroom with traycarts, dishes and silverware. Usually lunch is rice, a soup or curry, salad and some kind of meat, many times fish, and sometimes they give you fruit or gelatine, and 250ml boxes of milk for each student. Meals are made one per student, and we are not allowed to throw anything away – if you got it, you eat it. Usually the food is very good, but some days I have to drink a sip of milk at each bite of food for it to get down. On days when some classmate misses school, we play “stone, paper our scissors”, and the winner gets the milk or whatever he or she wants from menu. There is also a class about how to make Japanese tea, and how to serve and drink it. From 7th to 9th grade students must participate in extracurricular activities in school, such as kendô, judô or other sports, music, computer science, and several others. These activities exist to improve working in groups and so students can get to know each other better.

I stay in school from 8:00 AM until about 6:00 PM. When I get home, I need to rest a little, take a bath and do my homework. It is a very is busy day. I am still having a little trouble because there are many words I still haven’t learned, and so sometimes I don’t understand the teachers’ explanations well. I also have trouble with some rules the school requires of the students, like having to tie your hair up at a certain height, you can’t pain your nails r use any kind of makeup, and no earrings. Girls donot have pierced ears and are surprised when I tell them that in Brazil  my age mothers Pierce their daughters’ ears when they are still babies. For them, pierced ears are a sign of rebellion. One day I went to school wearing nail polish (I had used a really light pink polish over the weekend and forgot to take it off!). They took me to a different room and gave me acetone polish remover and told me clean my nails, and watched while I did it. The uniform is exactly alike for every girl, and the teachers measure the length of our skirts, that have to be below our knees, almost reaching the white socks that we have to wear.

I like in living in Japan, but miss my relatives and my home in Brazil. Sometimes I even cry from nostalgia. It is difficult to make friends with Japanese girls because I am so different from them in my appearance and way of being. Many classmates think I AM furiô (a rebellious person) because they think I dye my hair (which I do not do), I have pierced ears, and like to talk a lot. Besides, everyone know that I am a Christian, because I can’t stand to be quiet when they are teaching stuff like evolution or about many gods.

 I want everyone at school to know that there is only one God and only one way for salvation and fredom from depression and worry. May God help me giving me patience to do this!

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