The Naked Fire Drill Versus Japanese Politeness

, , , , , , , | Learning | February 1, 2020

I’m a counsellor for students with mental problems, mostly stress-related anxiety or teenage mood swings. One day, I got a new patient who was said to have anger management issues. His teacher claimed that he threw a tantrum, complete with shouting, screaming, and swearing. Nothing I haven’t handled before. When the guy came in, I was very surprised.

He was pleasant and polite, and he even baked me some tasty cupcakes. He was always calm, even when we discussed the incident that led to his tantrum, though he did sound annoyed at points. Apparently, his dorm master decided that the best time to hold a fire drill was late at night, when the entire dorm was preparing to sleep. In his case, he was showering, and was forced out by the other students in nothing but his towel. I should mention that it was a cold and windy night.

Without his glasses, he was unable to see where to line up and ended up in the wrong line. When the dorm master saw him, he decided to scold him in front of the entire dorm for holding everyone up by being too slow and in the wrong line. He even mocked the student’s near-nakedness. This led to the student losing his temper and to the ensuing tantrum, which was grossly exaggerated. After screaming one vulgar insult and flipping the dorm master off, the student calmed down and apologised repeatedly, not just to the dorm master, but to the entire dorm. That was the first time the student was even angry in roughly three years.

The student was very embarrassed and apologetic about the whole situation as it was apparently wrong to talk back or complain in his (Japanese) culture. I honestly couldn’t believe his restraint. If it’d been me in that situation, I’d have punched the man. And he could forget any form of apology from me. After another two sessions to make sure that the student didn’t really have anger management issues, I told the college that he was fine and put in a good word for him.

Unfortunately, the dorm master disagreed and tried to send the student back. I sent him to one of my colleagues, who also certified that the student was fine, forcing the dorm master to give up. 

I was later visited by the same student almost a month later, who dropped by to offer cupcakes to everyone in the office. Apparently the dorm master, even after being told that the student had done nothing wrong, still stuck him in repeated detentions, wrote a bad report on his report card, and stripped away many of his privileges in the dorm.

He’s since planned to move out with a bunch of his friends to an apartment, though is still too polite to enact vengeance or even complain about the teacher to the school.

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