Thursday, May 13, 2010

Atari mae

There is a Japanese phrase that I have difficulty translating appropriately into English. It is "atari mae" and most dictionaries translate it loosely as "ordinary, reasonable or obvious". I think it is slightly different and the latest group of boys we had to stay had me thinking a lot about "atari mae". In general they were really nice, but some of their assumptions got me to thinking about what kind of family they have been brought up in. For example...
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that I didn't eat. I am usually worried that there is not enough food so I generally wait till they have finished and then eat anything that is leftover. Most groups comment and ask if I want some, but this group never even noticed, let alone worried about it. I know that for a lot of Japanese families this is very normal - often the wife cooks at least twice a day to feed the children and then the husband whenever he gets home and often just "snacks" in between, but for us mealtimes are a family time.
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that they could eat a meal fully prepared by me (usually they are meant to cook together, but I took pity on them one night) and not even think of saying thank you.
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that if they chose to stay awake till 2am that they should be allowed to sleep till late and not have to work most of the day because they were too tired... unfortunately for them I am a little too strict to allow that!
  • they thought it was "atari mae" that we would spend 3 days with them - thinking of things to do, feeding them, entertaining them (my husband even took the day off on Friday to help out) and that there was no real need to thank us. Yes, we are paid for them to come and stay, but it is still a lot of work.
I could go on a bit more, but I've been summoned to go and help put the first swarm of bees for the year into our new hive. Here's hoping they stay this year.
Having said all the above about the boys we did have some good times - more bamboo digging, fishing, planting sweet potatoes and of course wood cutting! Only one more group to go before my mother comes to visit..... here's hoping they have been taught the word "thank you" before they arrive.


  1. I thought it was going to be a post about how your bought an Atari and spent the day in front of it playing pac-man!

  2. Good morning, sounds like, not a very considerate group of boys. Glad their visit was still fun though.

    But, yay your mom is coming! That's exciting! : )

  3. Bastish's comment made me laugh. Do they even make Atari computers anymore? Was it an atari commodor 64? That's what we had.

    Can you write some of the 'complaints' when you write the report - if you do - to their school? Please and thankyou are pretty standard things for us. Perhaps you could formulate some sort of Japanesey worded thing in the guest house saying in an around about kind of way that

    'lavish use of the words please and thankyou will keep you from being thrown bannished to the chicken house'

  4. I listened to the local minister give a talk to a group of kids on mothers day, he asked who had said thankyou to their mum that day (for any reason) not one child in the room put up their hand, to be honest I wasn't shocked.

    I realy dislike that this culture allows kids to get away with rudeness just because they are 'children'.

    I have never seen my MIL eat at the table over the past 10 years.

  5. Hi Jo,

    I thought I would check up on the good old ABC Outdoor Ed centre, and I see that it is still going strong, as are you and your family.

    I am now living in Nagoya City. Arrived here in April, and will be here for the next 3 years studying post-grad (Masters in sociology, especially psychology in relation to the internet and internet communication). Basically, I am keen to learn more about how people think and see the world, with the hope that I can contribute in some way to helping people communicate better...this of course leading to world peace.

    So yeah...if we (I am married now to a lovely Kiwi girl) ever get down to Oita, we will drop in and say hi!

    Also, if you know of any outdoor ed centres around Nagoya, I'd love to hear about them!

    Rob Thomson