Igirisu-jin in Nippon


I should perhaps explain the title. I am in no way squidgy. Lets make that abundantly clear. Squidginess is not something I wish anyone to associate with me. The name stems not from anything stay puft, but rather from some very imaginative students in my elementary class. Finding my name, Matthew, when written in katakana to be just close enough to Marshmallow, my students took it upon themselves to rename me, secure in the knowledge that the title they had just bestowed upon me was both hilarious and far more impressive than my given name. I’m inclined to agree. Firstly, because they’re nine years old and a far better judge of such things than I am. Secondly, because I didn’t have much choice in the matter and I thought it best not to fight it. One of them does Judo and I try not to disagree with him when possible, it being rather difficult to teach a class when one of them is attempting with all his tiny might to throw you over his shoulder.

My name is difficult to pronounce for many Japanese kids. If they attempt ‘Matt’ I become, Matto or Match, and Matthew is simply out of the question. The adults I teach who struggle with it simply call me Mashuu (the long vowel at the end is important, without it my name means ‘evil influence’), which is fine, but not nearly as much fun as renaming me and eventually my whole family based on the similarity of their names to food. My students were particularly thrilled to discover my Dad’s name is Peter and so readily converted to Pizza.

Now to explain the rest, as you might have gathered, I’m an English Teacher in Japan. I teach in a cram school, an after school establishment for kids trying to improve their English and Maths skills with future, mind numbing, life sapping, Japanese university entrance exams in mind. So from four pm until nine pm I’ll usually be teaching kids from age four to eighteen, with the occasional adult student thrown in for good measure. I also teach kindergarten and a few much older students during the day. This being Nagano, the prefecture with the longest average lifespan, in the country with the longest average lifespan, some of them will probably outlive me.

As to why I’m writing this. Well, I just enjoy it mostly. What will follow as a result of this poorly thought out desire to write will in all likelihood be a mix of curious tales from the Orient along with some ill-conceived mumblings and musings on the things I enjoy, namely literature, politics and the life draining joy and misery of supporting a lower league English football team from the other side of the world.

Oyasumi nasai


2 responses to “Igirisu-jin in Nippon

  1. Sounds like quite an experience Mattu – just hope that no-one was enjoying Pizza whilst watching the British Election.

  2. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier Uncle Biri (Honestly), but really, I was both amused and deeply, deeply disturbed by this comment.

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