Miura Shion is the original author of Fune wo Amu (2011) otherwise also known as The Great Passage. The anime adaptation started airing from October 16 on Fuji Television’s noitaminA block. The interview consists of eleven parts; this is the sixth part on Miura’s memories of her middle school lessons. Please go to part one “Encountering a Dictionary” to start reading the interview from the beginning.
Memories of the Lessons
I liked the Japanese language lessons the most. But, when I was in class I would draw in my notebook the whole time. Those drawings weren’t completely unrelated to the class. I was drawing illustrative things in my notebook for my own convenience. The scene would look like this, and so on.
Are there works in your Japanese language textbook in middle school which made an impression on you?
Yeah, I liked the Japanese language textbook, but I wonder what kind of works it had…
Lu Xun’s “My Old Home”[ref]Lu Xun (1881 – 1936) was a leading figure of modern Chinese literature.[/ref] should have been printed inside all textbooks of that time, but do you remember any of it?
“My Old Home”? I don’t remember it. I wonder if we didn’t do it.
So there are cases where the teacher didn’t pick it up in his lessons even though it was in the textbook, huh. Words like チャー (cha)[ref]char[/ref] and さすまた (sasumata)[ref]two-pronged weapon for catching a criminal; man-catcher war fork [/ref] appear in it though…
Ah, those were in there, I have a feeling it was in there. I did read the entire Japanese language textbook from the very beginning when it was handed over to me. I feel it wasn’t Lu Xun’s “My Old Home” but “The True Story of Ah Q” though. But I might not have read it in the textbook. What other works were in there?
For first-year students there were works such as Hermann Hesse’s “Jugendgedenken” [ref]A variation on Hesse’s “Das Nachtpfauenauge”, 1911 short story.[/ref] and Akutagawa Ryuunosuke’s “A Lorry”.
I think we did “A Lorry”. But, I don’t remember Hesse’s.
It’s a story about stealing a friend’s butterfly specimen.
I wonder if I still wasn’t old to understand it in middle school (laughs). I don’t remember it very much.
But it seemed like you started reading adult novels like those of Dan Kazuo[ref]Kazuo Dan (1912 – 1976) was a noted Japanese novelist and poet[/ref] starting from middle school, right? Surely, among the pieces inside the textbook, it was a work which you obtained by yourself and read…
I may have mixed some things up…
How were your Japanese language lessons?
I liked the Japanese language lessons the most. But, when I was in class I would draw in my notebook the whole time. Those drawings weren’t completely unrelated to the class. I was drawing illustrative things in my notebook for my own convenience. The scene would look like this, and so on. For example, a bulldog would be named Capone, but I would make a drawing out of it.
I read in a magazine that you would write plenty of your own stories on blank report forms when you were in middle school…
Ah, that was about the time when I read Murakami Haruki’s “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.” Until then I never read stories like that one. I thought it was amazing, and thought ‘let’s write hard-boiled too’. So I wrote about 20 pages of blank report forms, until I was satisfied like “alright, it’s done”. It was a wholly incomplete, and nonsensical thing (laughs).
Perhaps you were a pupil who didn’t actively participate very much in the lessons? You love books, and read all the textbooks quickly after you received it in April, and it seemed like you drew pictures during the lessons.
I might get scolded for saying it like this, but isn’t it okay if you don’t listen so enthusiastically to the Japanese language classes? I don’t understand if you don’t eagerly listen to English or mathematics lessons. Or perhaps I should say that I didn’t understand even if I listened with zeal. But if you ask “Everyone, how was it?” in the case of novels, all the answers will be opinions. It’s fun because you can listen to a friend’s opinion “My opinion is this”. It’s okay to absentmindedly think “Oh, is that so?”.
Because I remember thinking in mathematics class “I can’t do it anymore!” when I was made to memorize formulas I didn’t understand, and told to explain those while not understanding the meaning. My English too isn’t at the level that I could explain this and that in the English-Japanese translations until up to high school. Similar to mathematics, they say you have to translate relative pronouns like this. I didn’t understand it at all, so it was hard for me. I thought, compared to those subjects, Japanese language lessons were fine because they don’t have a correct answer.
But there are exam weeks like end of term tests when it comes to middle school. Even if it’s a good thing to interpret a character’s feelings freely in the lessons, it will no doubt get a mark on a written test. I think there would be a situation in which you get many multiple choice questions from which you pick a single answer. How was it for you, Miura-san?
I was able to do it somehow. I went with my feeling for picking an answer. Isn’t it okay if I can select a choice in a sort-of “if this was process of elimination, it would be this one?”. Of course I also made mistakes though. Isn’t there a style of answering to a sentence like “Please answer with less than x characters,” and it’s okay to write “Because it was OO”? I am grateful for words that I can read and write by myself in letters which I can read for questions as well as answers. I don’t understand the meaning of numbers in mathematics, so it’s useless.
Even with English, I had to answer in English even though the question was in Japanese. I always thought I wouldn’t understand the meaning. That’s why Japanese language and social study lessons were easy for me from the beginning. Because I was able to read and write in Japanese. Particularly for Japanese, even if I had to study for tests, it wasn’t something you had to know what to do in particular. It was probably better to remember the kanji, classical literature and grammar. But otherwise it wasn’t something I had to learn by memorizing.
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