Being in Japan as a student, naturally, I am expected to attend classes. Although I expected my schedule to be fixed, I got a little freedom to choose courses other than the ones they had already selected for me. So, there was this one course I planned on going to, which was notably also recommended by my supervisor, and I was waiting nervously in front of the research room of the professor in question, which seemed way too small to teach in. Class was about to start, but there was no one to be seen.I started wondering whether I was even at the right place to begin with. Eventually the professor appeared and looked startled when he saw me, as if I broke into his house, in birth costume. When two other students appeared, the fact that we were there for class seemed to have sunk in, and he opened the door for us.
I am used to seeing messy research rooms, but this one was beyond anything else I had ever seen. Imagine having class in a cramped storage room, with only about a square metre to move about, and with two creepy masks staring at you from the mirror. It took him some time to make room for us to sit. While the evil-looking masks stared to us from behind him, he asked what we were there for. For class, of course, we said, after which he laughed and said he hoped it was a joke. He explained that he was not really set on giving class and didn’t expect any students to show up. Nevertheless, he asked us to introduce ourselves and our research topics. Obviously, I did not understand a word of what the research of the other two was all about, with all the jargon they were using.
Eventually, we came to an agreement. Instead of having class regularly, we would just show up once in a while and tell him about our research. And that was it. No Foucault or Aries this year.
But that was not all. In the afternoon, I planned to attend a class on the Taisho New Education Movement, which is linked to my own research, so I was quite excited. Then class started, and the professor asked us if we had read today’s newspaper. Which was weird, since I thought that this was a history class. He was referring to an article about infertility — so lucky to have a dictionary on my phone! — and he asked all of us to sum up some keywords which were connected to the topic. I had absolutely no clue why we were talking about infertility in modern Japanese society in an educational history class. I ended up witnessing a debate dealing with infertility throughout the next hour and a half. I was sincerely worried that I had somehow gone to the wrong classroom. When I checked with another student afterwards, it appeared that the professor just hadn’t had the time to update the course description…