Thursday, January 13, 2011


I'm going to do a little complaining today... Well, I don’t know if it is complaining but I have some cynical observations.

Yesterday was my first day back teaching and in one of my children's classes (2nd and 3rd graders) I asked if they had had a good New Year's holiday. When I ask each lesson about the past week I usually get a bunch of grunts or "can't remember" or "it was boring" type of answers. Yesterday the kids (four of them) were very happy.

"Yes! Good New Year! I got 3 man 5 thousand yen." (Equivalent to more than $350!)

"That's nothing! I got 4 man!" ($400)

"We got more than 8 man ($800) together!" (Brothers...)

Sheesh. I did not want to know how much loot the kids pulled in. And I was disturbed to see the sparkling in their eyes at the mention of money when they are usually so doldrumed to the world.

Japan has the custom of giving children "otoshidama" which I suppose translates as New Year's coins. On New Year's day, children line up in front of relatives who have come visiting and will be presented with colorful, small envelopes that contain money. Each adult relative gives each child an envelope and there is a lot of bowing and exchanging of wishes for good health in the New Year. Even Tetsu fondly remembers this tradition. If the child has a lot of adult relatives I suppose he receives a lot of envelopes and a lot of money... but my understanding had been maybe $10 per relative. I guess not!

(By the way, we never followed this custom in our house. Not too many relatives to begin with and besides Tetsu and I and my American family had showered our kids with Christmas presents not many days before the New Year's. Tetsu's mother though sometimes gave the kids otoshidama that she really couldn't afford and Tetsu would reciprocate to her.)

I read somewhere that this year 18% of elementary school children in Japan received over 4 man yen ($400) in otoshidama, and 17% received over 2 man ($200). I guess my English class students can consider themselves pretty affluent.

When I told Tetsu, his comment was that he wished that he were a Japanese elementary school student, but I am more cynical. These 2nd and 3rd graders DO NOT get trained in saving money let alone doing chores for getting an allowance. They have already spent or are planning to spend their otoshidama on hand held computer games and I shudder to think how they will learn about self control or delayed gratification. MY comment to Tetsu was that I am glad I am not trying to raise our children in this age! 10-15 years ago I had enough trouble keeping them off the TV and restricting computer time. I don't think I'd have the energy to oversee otoshidama purchases, let alone hand held computer usage.

I'm not asking anymore of my children's classes about their New Year's holidays. Listening to otoshidama hauls seems way too materialistic for my tastes.

(pictures from the Internet)

No comments: