Landkey Primary School in North Devon was the fortieth group I have visited to talk about Japan since March. I usually do several sessions at each school, and can probably estimate that I reach an average of a hundred students. So I think I’ve now spoken to 4000 young British kids about Japan — not bad going at all really.
Deputy Headteacher Michelle Gardner had heard about me visiting North Devon and asked me to spend an afternoon at Landkey. I did a whole school assembly and then spent some time in individual classes. Even though a lot of the children were very little, they were still able to talk and think about earthquakes and tsunami. I often find that kids in North Devon, being so close to the sea can imagine the effects of a tsunami on their little communities and have a lot of empathy.
Michelle very kindly said she’d like to send out an announcement to the parents about my visit, and encouraging donations. Landkey is also interested in linking with a school in Japan so I’ll match them up with a school of similar size and age range.
I spent that evening catching up with a girlfriend from university and her husband and two children. He was a teacher until recently, when they all moved back to her hometown in North Devon, and took over the small B&B originally belonging to her mother, and where she actually grew up. I love visiting her home because it brings back such lovely memories — our uni gang all took over the place a few times over the years.
I’ve written before about the differences I’ve noticed in working habits in England, when compared with Japan, or even when compared with assumptions about England I may have made over the years. People seem to come home from work really early — when I’m staying with Mr W, I am always so surprised to see him walk through the door while it’s still light outside. In Japan most of the people I know rarely finish work before 8pm. And among friends of mine in England, one half of a couple with very small children might take a bit of time out to be with the new addition to their family, all of them return to work in some form or another, but I don’t think I know any couples where both people work full-time. There seems to be all sorts of part-time, flexible working arrangements which means that both parents spend a lot more time with their kids than I see among friends of mine in Japan. Not to mention time they spend with each other. My friends in England don’t seem to earn huge amounts of money and don’t seem to care about it either — they’re not very materialistic. I’ve never been particularly materialistic but especially since the earthquake I have found myself rejecting material things — I’ve pretty much worn the same tops and jeans for the past six months and given away most of what now feels like a ridiculously extensive MAC makeup collection.
And it’s been liberating. My personal spending has dramatically reduced, and without working seven days a week, ten hours a day as I used to, I have now bought myself time — time that’s now spent visiting schools, sharing my passion for Japan, fundraising, maintaining business projects back home in Tokyo, and enjoying time with the people I love in England.