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Interview with Nagisa Irie

Irie, Nagisa
Karakisawa, Mayako
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification
Nagisa Irie talks about the differences between US and Japanese schools.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Mayako Karakisawa interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
MK (Mayako Karakisawa): Hello. My name is Mayako Karakisawa. It is July 14th, 2003. Miss Nagisa Irie is here today. Hello.
NI (Nagisa Irie): Hello.
MK: Nagisa, you came here about one year ago from Japan. This August you will be in 7th grade at Smith Academy. And you went to school in Japan until 6th grade, didn't you? You came here and started from 6th grade. I would love to hear what the differences between Japanese school and American school are.
NI: Yes.
MK: First, what was the most difficult thing when you came here?
NI: Of course, studying for English.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: It was hard to-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -Get used to school.
MK: I see.
NI: It was really hard.
MK: It was difficult. What was the most challenging subject in school?
NI: English. Everything is English.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: For example, words for math-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -I need to learn those English words.
MK: Hmm, right. Were there any Japanese people around you, right after you came here?
NI: There was one boy at school.
MK: Really. Before you came to Smith Academy, you went to different school, didn't you?
NI: Uh-huh.
MK: Hmm. Then-. How was Japanese school? Did you have a uniform? Oh, elementary school doesn't have uniform.
NI: No, it doesn't.
MK: Right. In America, middle school starts from sixth grade. How about Japan? What are the grade levels in elementary school?
NI: From first grade until sixth grade.
MK: Really? Then, you graduated from sixth grade and you came here didn't you?
NI: I came here before I graduated elementary school.
MK: That is right. Before you graduated, you came here. Usually, when you go to middle school, there is a uniform, isn't there? What is the grade level in middle school in the United States?
NI: Until eighth grade.
MK: Eighth grade. It is different from Japan. How about the time schedule. What is the difference?
NI: The length of class-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -Is really long in America. In Japan, a class lasts about 40 minutes.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: A class here lasts for one hour and a half.
MK: One hour and a half? That is long. But, we are comparing with Japanese elementary school and middle school now.
NI: Oh, right.
MK: But, 90, 90 minute class is long. How many classes do you have in a day in America?
NI: Four.
MK: Four, Hmmm. How many classes did you have in your Japanese elementary school?
NI: [Pause] Six or, five or-.
MK: Six classes or five classes. How was the schedule in your Japanese elementary school? What time did the first period start?
NI: About eight-thirty.
MK: About eight-thirty. When was the second period?
NI: After 40 minutes, so-.
MK: Right. After 40 minutes, then, nine-ten.
NI: Wait, before that there was a recess.
MK: Oh, right, recess.
NI: Ten minutes.
MK: Ten minutes, between classes, there are 10 minute-.
NI: Yes.
MK: -Breaks.
NI: Yes.
MK: Isn't there a big recess after second period?
NI: Yes.
MK: How long?
NI: Twenty-five minutes.
MK: Really? That is nice. Then is that the same as the other classrooms?
NI: Yes.
MK: Really? Wow. A recess at elementary school in America is dependent on classrooms.
NI: Right.
MK: Hmm. What did you do during recess time?
NI: Talk with my friends-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -Study a little bit-.
MK: What? Study?
NI: When there is a test.
MK: Oh, right. What was very popular among Japanese elementary and middle school students?
NI: Ummm.
MK: Is it about the same as here? For example, TV idols.
NI: I think, it is about the same.
MK: The same. Hmm. All right, now, second period is finished. There was a big recess, third period, and fourth period.
NI: Yes.
MK: Is it lunch after that?
NI: Yes.
MK: How do they eat lunch in Japan?
NI: We bring lunch.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: Then, when everyone gets food, we say, "I ta da ki ma su."
MK: You eat with everyone. Then do you eat in a cafeteria?
NI: No, in a classroom.
MK: In a classroom. Who brings lunch to a classroom?
NI: Lunch helpers.
MK: Really?
NI: They bring lunch for everyone in class.
MK: Lunch helpers. Hmm. Lunch helpers are from each class, aren't they?
NI: Yes.
MK: In America, cafeteria ladies cook lunch in cafeteria, and everyone goes there to eat. In Japan there are cafeteria ladies to cook lunch, but lunch helpers from each class bring lunch to a classroom.
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmm. Right. So, after lunch, there is another recess, isn't there?
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmm. Then, fifth period and sixth period. What time is school over?
NI: About four o'clock. But if I had a club, it takes longer.
MK: Is there a club?
NI: Yes, upper grade levels have a club.
MK: Upper grade levels, are that fourth and fifth grade levels?
NI: No. Fourth, fifth, and sixth.
MK: Fourth, fifth, and sixth. Oh, that is right. What kind of clubs did you have?
NI: I was in the basketball club.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: There were softball club and baseball club-.
MK: Really?
NI: -And others.
MK: Hmm, there were sports types clubs, weren't there?
NI: Yes.
MK: Here in America there is a club, but they don't start until middle school. And the club only practices during the seasons. Was it like that in Japan? And does your basketball club practice all year long?
NI: Yes.
MK: Did you practice everyday?
NI: Yes, everyday.
MK: How long?
NI: After school-.
MK: Uh-huh. Around four o'clock.
NI: -For one hour, I think.
MK: Hmm. How did you get back home?
NI: By walk.
MK: You walked home. Here, students use the bus to go home.
NI: Yes.
MK: Well, how long did you walk to get home?
NI: About 15 minutes.
MK: Really? Everybody walked home, didn't they?
NI: Yes.
MK: It must have been fun walking home with your friends. You get home around five thirty.
NI: Yes.
MK: That is tough. Were you doing some lessons after school?
NI: I was taking-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -Piano lessons.
MK: Really? Are you taking piano lessons here?
NI: Not yet [laugh].
MK: [Laugh]
NI: I have wanted to do it-.
MK: Really?
NI: -But I have to study.
MK: Hmm. Did many people around you take piano lessons?
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmmm. I took piano lessons when I was little.
NI: Uh-huh.
MK: When I was little [laugh]. Well, what else? Well, it has been a year since you came to America. Now you are here and you are going to Japanese Saturday school, aren't you?
NI: Yes.
MK: So, you know what kind of study Japanese students in Japan are doing-.
NI: Only Japanese literacy and math, I know-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -But I don't really know about other subjects.
MK: Oh, really? Oh, that is right. Social studies and science, they don't study in Japanese Saturday school. Well, middle school is different from elementary school. Anyway, it is nice that you have a place that you can speak Japanese-.
NI: Yes.
MK: -Going to Japanese Saturday school. Is it still easier for you to speak Japanese than English? Well, it has been only for a year since you came here.
NI: Off course. It is a lot easier.
MK: [Laugh] Is there any part that you liked about American school?
NI: School rules are not that strict.
MK: Really? School rules are not that strict.
NI: For example, clothes.
MK: Right. What kind of school rules were there in Japan?
NI: No jewelry.
MK: What else?
NI: You cannot cross your legs during a class [laugh].
MK: [Laugh] What else?
NI: Hmm. If you bring-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -Comic books and other things that are not for class, they are taken away by teachers.
MK: Mmmm, right.
NI: Well, that happens in America, too.
MK: But I see some people bringing those items.
NI: Uh-huh.
MK: Yeah. I was surprised about accessories, because very small children, like kindergarten children, are even earring, what do you call it?
NI: Pierced earring.
MK: Right. There are some people who wear pierced earring, and lipsticks. Right. School rules aren't that strict. Why is, "You cannot cross your legs"?
NI: Well, you need to listen to your teachers' talk with good posture.
MK: I see. So, Japanese students follow directions better? Better behavior?
NI: Yes, I think.
MK: Hmm. I am teaching in elementary school in the United States. Behavior expectations seem higher than Japanese behavior expectations. For example, when students are walking in a hallway, you need to walk in line and walk with a teacher. You wouldn't see that happening in Japan. In Japan, students are running in the hallway, especially elementary school.
NI: During recess time, everybody is loud and they don't listen to teachers. During class, if we speak, we get really scolded.
MK: Really. So, when students are in class, students are quiet. But when students are in recess, students get loud,
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmm. In Japan, the school rules are stricter. That is hard for students.
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmm. I will go back to the topic of recess. You talk to your friends, and/or study. You study during the recess when you have test, don't you?
NI: Before a test, I study really quickly [laugh].
MK: Right, how about homework? Did you have homework?
NI: I had it, but not much.
MK: Really. Didn't you have homework everyday?
NI: Uh-huh.
MK: You said you talk to your friends, but what kind of talk do you do? Is it the same as here in the United States? What was a popular topic to talk about? What was the most popular game?
NI: Game-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: When we played outside-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: We don't know why, but we played "It" a lot.
MK: Really?
NI: Even big kids were running around.
MK: I see. Playing "It." When I was little, we did jump rope all the time.
NI: Yes.
MK: Did you?
NI: [Laugh] We played that.
MK: Right, did you guys do that here in the US? Don't you guys go outside?
NI: Recess is really short here.
MK: Really.
NI: The recess is finished just switching classes.
MK: I remembered when I heard about switching classes. You have lockers in America, don't you?
NI: Yes.
MK: Don't you have that in Japan?
NI: We don't switch classes in Japan. There are desks in a classroom and we keep our things in there.
MK: Hmm, you don't move?
NI: We didn't need lockers.
MK: Well, what are classes like in the United States? How does the schedule go? You go to school in the morning.
NI: Yes.
MK: And you go to school around eight thirty a.m.
NI: Yes.
MK: Which class do you go to first?
NI: Advisory class.
MK: What is Advisory?
NI: Homeroom.
MK: Oh, homeroom. Japanese elementary and middle school are in their own classroom.
NI: Yes.
MK: Well, so you go to Advisory class first. And where do you go next? Do you go to different class?
NI: Yes. If next is language arts, we go to language arts teacher's class.
MK: I see.
NI: If next is math, we go to math teacher's class.
MK: So students move.
NI: Yes.
MK: In Japan, in even middle school-.
NI: Teachers come to you.
MK: Right. Then, the existence of lockers-. Japanese middle school students leave their things in their own desks and in their own classroom. American middle school students leave their things in their lockers.
NI: Yes.
MK: Is that right?
NI: Yes.
MK: Hmm. Wasn't it hard to adjust?
NI: It was really hard [laugh].
MK: [Laugh]
NI: Like, "Oh-no. I forgot."
MK: Right. On top of that, textbooks are so heavy and thick.
NI: Yes, it is heavy.
MK: Mmm.
NI: Very hard.
MK: Well, then what time is your lunch?
NI: Hmmm. After second period, so, noon.
MK: Oh, noon. That is just the right time. You eat lunch in a cafeteria. Again, that is different. And do you have recess after lunch?
NI: No.
MK: No. Hmm, right after lunch, it is study time.
NI: Before class, there is time to go to my locker and go to the bathroom-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -But that is it.
MK: How long is the switching time?
NI: Five to ten minutes.
MK: Five to ten minutes. Wow, that is hard. If your class were very far away from your locker, you wouldn't have enough time. Five to ten minutes. Well, when does the school end? Three o'clock? Three thirty p.m.? Oh, about three twenty-five p.m.
NI: Yes, about three twenty-five p.m.
MK: Do you go to your homeroom before you go home?
NI: No, we leave from the last period class.
MK: Really? You don't go back to homeroom. You don't start from the homeroom and don't end with homeroom.
NI: No.
MK: Really? Hmm. In Japan, your own homeroom teacher takes care of you. For example, advising you which high school you will be going to, having conferences with parents, and others.
NI: Yes.
MK: In America, does the advisory teacher do that?
NI: Mmmm, I don't really know. Maybe-.
MK: Hmmm. That is interesting. Nagisa, you said Japanese middle school students walked to school. Do you walk to school here in America?
NI: By bus.
MK: Bus. How is the bus? [Laugh] Do you like it?
NI: I get car sick, sometimes, because I am on a bus for a long time.
MK: You get car sick? That is rough.
NI: I am on a bus for about one hour.
MK: For one hour?
NI: Yes.
MK: Wow. What time do you leave the house to go to school.
NI: About seven ten a.m.
MK: Around seven ten a.m, and what time do you get home?
NI: About four thirty p.m.
MK: Four thirty p.m. Then, you get home about the same time as you were in a club when you were in Japan.
NI: Yes, that is right.
MK: That is hard. You haven't been here only for a year yet, so it may be hard for you to make a decision, but which school do you like? Japanese school? Or American school?
NI: Mmm-.
MK: Well, don't think about your level of English. Which is easier?
NI: I think American school is-.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: -More free, I think.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: I want to be used to American school.
MK: Hmm. You said, school rules are less strict. And what else does it make free?
NI: What is it? For example, teachers are more reasonable.
MK: Really, Japanese teachers are not reasonable?
NI: There are several times, I think why teachers get upset about very small things in Japan.
MK: Hmm. How about study. Is it harder in Japan?
NI: I think study is about the same.
MK: About the same. In America, there are End of Grade Tests, and other standardized tests. Did you have that kind of test in Japan?
NI: Well, we didn't have a test that is already set, like End of Grade Test, but each unit has a test.
MK: After each unit, you had a test. Well, it is about fifteen minutes. Thank you very much.
NI: Yes.
MK: Do you have anything to conclude this interview? I understand that you like the freedom of American school. But how about Japanese school. Was there anything that you liked about Japanese school?
NI: Hmm. What is it?
MK: [Laugh] You had many friends, didn't you?
NI: Yes.
MK: Were you sad to leave them? Did you come here because of your father's business?
NI: Yes.
MK: Well, how long ago did you know when you were coming here?
NI: Three months before I came here.
MK: Did you like it? Were you excited?
NI: It wasn't really real to me.
MK: [Laugh]
NI: I didn't know.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: Until right before I came here, it didn't feel real to me.
MK: Uh-huh.
NI: I was just having a normal life.
MK: Like, "All right, I will go." Hmm. Well, thank you very much for letting me interview you.
NI: You're welcome.