It’s been a while since I updated my translation of “The Night Patrol Teacher” and I can only really blame myself for having a lack of motivation for translating. Anyway, before I get into my most recent translations, I would like to share an article I found online from the Japan Times that provides more information about Osamu Mizutani and just how much of an impact he is having. The article translates his title as “the night guard teacher” instead of “the night patrol teacher” that I came up with. Guard may be a better word than patrol, but he uses the Japanese word for patrol a lot in his book, so I will stick with that word for now.
YOKOHAMA’S ‘NIGHT GUARD’
Solo savior on the streets
By TETSUSHI KAJIMOTO
For the past 14 years, former high-school teacher Osamu Mizutani has had no rest as he has devoted himself to helping troubled youths put their lives back in order.
Widely known as yomawari sensei (the night guard-teacher) for his nightly patrols to encourage kids hanging around the streets to return to regular life, 49-year-old Mizutani regularly has to deal with motorcycle gangs and gangsters as he strives to turn youngsters away from lives of crime.
Once he was even forced by an underworld boss to crush the tip of his own finger in order to help a Taiwanese youth sever ties with a crime syndicate.
Now, with more teens becoming hikikomori recluses, suffering from abuse at home or giving up on their future in a society they perceive of as fraught with socio-economic change, Mizutani has been busier than ever. Two years ago his book “Yomawari Sensei” touched a raw nerve when it was published. About 350,000 copies have been sold to date in Japan, with another 51,000 sold in translation in South Korea since 2004 and publication eyed soon in Taiwan.
“Teenagers, mainly those in junior-high and high schools, read my book, and the reason is simply because of my message that tells them ‘it’s all right’,” Mizutani told The Japan Times. “That is because I tell them that whatever wrong they did in the past, or they are doing at present — the future will come, so let’s build tomorrow.
“How many parents or teachers tell their children ‘it’s all right’? Instead they tell them they are failures, tell them off and just keep prodding them. That’s why so many kids come to me for rescue.”
Mizutani quit his job as a social science teacher in September 2004 after falling out with the local education authorities over his principles of education, and he sensed that he would be relegated to a non-teaching post. Since then he has been delivering lectures nationwide, patroling the streets at night and exchanging phone calls and e-mails with thousands of young people from all over the country.
“Last night, I went to bed at 4 a.m. after exchanging e-mails with children as usual, and then I had a good night’s sleep of about four hours — which was an hour longer than usual.”
Last year, Mizutani gave a total of 423 lectures — a punishing schedule that allowed him to return to his Yokohama home about only three days a month. Over the last 22 months he has received more than 183,000 e-mails from about 100,000 children or parents seeking his advice. Of those, he estimates that around 10 percent were split evenly between youths taking drugs (and the parents of such children) and parents whose children had been sent to reformatories, while 90 percent were from young people with suicidal tendencies who had taken overdoses or cut their wrists.
“Those children say things like ‘Mr. Mizutani, help me. I cannot help but cut my wrist,’ and ‘Why shouldn’t I be dead? I want to die!’ In fact, I was dealing with such cries for help until just before I left home for this interview today.”
Clearly, demands for his assistance are unending — during the two-hour-long interview Mizutani was frequently answering calls. One was from an 18-year-old girl on medication for a dependence on stimulants. She started taking them after her foster parents forced her into prostitution when she graduated from junior high school in Fukuoka. The foster parents were arrested last year.
Mizutani said he first dealt with juvenile delinquency and drugs when he began teaching at a night school in Yokohama in 1992. Many of the students there were sniffing glue and roaming the streets after school. Later, about four years ago, he began to tackle the problem of teen suicide after receiving an e-mail from a first-year high-school student. According to Mizutani, she had been cutting her wrists for three years and “was so sick of life that she wanted to die.”
Now he figures that “more than a million” youngsters in Japan are cutting their wrists, taking overdoses and harming themselves in other attempted suicides or “cries for help” every year — adding that schools generally deny knowing of any such cases.
Mizutani explains that many children hurt themselves as a cry for help. They feel their parents and teachers don’t recognize their independent existence, instead ordering them around, expecting high levels of achievement and pressuring them to behave in certain ways.
As another symptom of social malaise and family dysfunction, the number of hikikomori among teenagers and youths in their 20s is put by some experts at more than a million, he notes. He warns that as more and more children live in a “virtual reality” mediated by cell phones and the Internet, they lack the ability to build a rapport with people around them.
“Some people accuse me of ‘self-advertisement’ because of what I do, but my aim is to shed light on these social issues so that they can be properly addressed.”
But as much as he tries, Mizutani hasn’t got a magic wand.
On Jan. 3, one of the youths he had been counseling died from a drug overdose. To his knowledge, 31 others he has helped have also died.
On the positive side, Mizutani believes that about 70 percent of the young people who turn to him for help manage to pull themselves together after several e-mail exchanges.
“I always tell troubled kids to do something for others. They are suspicious of people, but they can be cured by kind words from others. To receive those words, they must do something themselves.”
He makes it clear to them that he sympathizes with their predicaments — without asking them about every detail — and tells them that he can help them to think about what to do tomorrow.
“It’s the responsibility of adults to talk about tomorrow, but few of them do that nowadays — many children are losing sight of their tomorrow.”
Although the economy is said to be picking up — especially the big-business sector — the number of households on welfare is also rising. In 2000, Japan is now ranked fifth among the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of the number of individuals with equivalized disposable income less than 50 percent of the median income of the entire population. And both domestic violence and the number of workers entitled to compensation for work-related mental disorders are also on the increase.
“How many adults appear to be living a happy life? Seeing worn-out and distressed adults all around, children are prone to live only for the pleasure of the moment because they feel that becoming an adult will suck.”
In society in general, Mizutani feels that people are becoming less at ease with themselves, especially with the trend toward merit-based pay that is polarizing individuals into successes and failures.
With life for many getting tougher, Mizutani believes that more fathers, who fear being laid off, are venting their frustrations on their wives and children, turning to drink, or both. Similarly, mothers busy working part-time to make ends meet are also venting their stress on their children or turning their backs on their families and resorting to online dating.
“Children have nowhere to go but home or school, and they are hardly ever encouraged with praise by teachers. How many kids could be saved if such beautiful words as ‘thank you’ were exchanged at home and school?”
In his lectures Mizutani urges parents and teachers to create a kind-hearted and considerate society in which children can grow up with smiles on their faces.
And that could not happen quickly enough for Mizutani, who, for the last several years, has been suffering from lymphoma in the thymus gland.
“My body will be done for soon because the cancer has spread quite badly, and I may or may not live out the year. I will have a good rest if I die,” he said.
But if Mizutani were not out there, then to whom could those troubled young people turn? “All I can do is sow as many seeds as possible for adults and children to nurture and realize that it’s great to be alive and caring for each other,” Mizutani said.
Until then, nothing, not even his own death, scares him more than the thought of those he helps calling him a liar and never trusting him again.
You can see the original article online complete with pictures if you are interested.
Because the article was written in 2006 and nothing has been published since then, I became concerned that he had indeed died of cancer. He was diagnosed with in 1999 with thymic lymphoma and that he was most likely facing his final three years. His so called demise is long past due by this point, but according to sources he is still roaming the streets, night and day, refusing any sort of treatment. However, no one is 100% sure as to what he is doing specifically. The talk on the Net has it that he has been on lecture tours across the nation. He is said to have visited even Seoul, South Korea. And guess how Yomawari Sensei spends his sleepless night in every city he visits. Most recently he closed down his websites (he had two of them). So as of now only a limited number of people can directly reach him. Perhaps this is all in preparation for when his time actually comes. There is also a manga series and a drama, but they seem hard to come by on the internet.
The one of the issues raised in the article, hikkikomori, is actually a serious problem in Japanese society and the school system. I would place it right up their with bullying because many children who chose this way of life do so because they have been bullied in school – one of my favorite students has fallen into the category and there is currently a meeting being help with their mother, homeroom teacher, and school principle in the office at the moment. To be perfectly honest, the junior high school I work at has been having a lot of problems with its students this year. To be more specific, they have been having a lot of problems with the second year students. I am not sure if I will dedicate a post to this topic or not. The school is already losing face over the students’ behavior and the teachers are aging ten years by the day in appearance because of the stress. I really hope that the problem(s) are able to be resolved soon because it is making for one very tense working environment. I imagine things will only get worse though with summer vacation only a month away.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. How about some more of 夜周り先生? In the chapters I have translated he gives us more insight into his past and we see a little more of the darker side of his personality as a child.
ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ
Chapter 10: Sisters
In the summer of 2002 I received a very distressing e-mail from a high school freshman girl. “Since three years ago I have been cutting my wrists. I hate everything and I want to die.” is what was written. I quickly responded to her e-mail and got her home address. That same weekend I was on a plane flying to her home town.
Almost all children who cut their wrists do not really doing it to commit suicide. They cut themselves, watch their own blood flow, feel the pain from the blade, in order to understand and feel that they are alive. They do not do it because they want to die.
That’s why I believed that she still had the desire to live.
The girl who appeared before me at our designated meeting spot was breathtakingly beautiful. However, covering both her arms from he wrists to a little above her elbow were bandages. It was hard to look at her with her arms completely wrapped in white.
I listened to her situation as we ate.
Starting from when she was an elementary school student she had been bullied by her older sister of two years. being punched and kicked were the most common forms of bullying, but her sister would also cut her clothing with scissors or hide them. These things happened everyday without rest. Just listening made me feel sick from the sinister bullying she endured from her own family.
“What about your parents?”
“’You just have to put up with it,’ is what they tell me and they don’t really try to understand.”
She said those words in a heart-rending voice.
“It would be better if I were not here. I really do want to die.”
I then thought to myself. There is nothing to scold her about and there was no immediate solution to her problem. If nothing else, talking to her parents and sister was the most important thing to do. No matter what the case, that is always the first step. If things are properly looked at, it is not the trail of a bad child, but of a conference with an adult with reasons.
After persuading her she took me to her home.
With perplexed looks on their faces, I explained to her parents of their daughter’s suffering. I then suggested many possible ways to help fix the problem. The whole time her parents looked uncomfortable and never spoke a single word in response to what I was saying. It appeared as though they already knew of their daughter’s wrist cutting. Then why had they not talked with her about it? Why had they not tried to help her?
As I calmly talked the inside of my heart began to burn furiously.
After I had finished, the father called another girl to join us.
“This is the older sister.”
After just one look at the older sister I could understand this family’s difficult existence.
“The older sister suffers with this face while the younger was blessed with charm and good looks. Isn’t it unfair? This is why we always told the younger girl that she must endure.”
On her face was a giant purple birthmark that covered nearly all of her face.
One can only imagine the suffering that the older sister also endured. Still, the two sisters shared in a bullying that came from no reason at all. Their parents had pushed such pain onto them and I began to wonder for what purpose this family existed. I decided to tell the four of them exactly how I felt about their situation. Despite the younger sister’s constant sacrifices and enduring her sister’s abuse, the problem was not solved. Their family’s difficulty (the older daughter’s birthmark) was not something that could be healed so they had to find a way to live or find someone to consult with them about how to. One does not live because they have a face. You cannot live with your face alone.
Then the older sister spoke.
“I’m sorry. Until now I have only taken advantage of my sister. I envied her…I bullied her…I couldn’t express myself. The truth is I just wanted to feel I was alive.”
From my perspective, neither of these girls was bad. They were helpless against the anxiety that wrapped around them and they just wanted someone to understand their pain because their parents were not doing that for them.
Even now the sisters continue to fight on a much smaller scale, but they are learning to live together. They told me thing with very bright voices over the phone.
Chapter 11: Jealousy
I have bullied someone before.
When my mother could afford it, we began living together.
My mother worked as a teacher at a special needs school and because there were sometimes no facilities available to take care of the handicapped children at night, my child adoring mother would take care of them at our home. They seemed to be much more lovable than me. They ate more delicious food, had cleaner clothing, and at night I would have to sleep on the same futon as them.
To me it was neglect and things were only made worse by my having to change their diapers. I was finally able to live with my mother, but it felt like my only mother was giving the happiness I starved for to children who were not her own. I could not forgive these conditions, so I always took advantage of the time my mother was away to pinch and kick the children who were stealing my happiness. They were much younger than me so my bullying was simply praying on the weak. Even I knew how terrible my actions were. That is why I cried every night on the days I bullied as I curled up in a ball on my mother’s futon. I would bury my face in my chest and promise myself over and over again that “I will become a good child.”
However, even though I wanted to stop I could not bring myself to do so. I was suffering. Everyone who bullies, cuts their wrists, or shuts themselves off from the rest of the world is. Until they find someone who can fill them with the love they are seeking they cannot stop those actions. Alone they are powerless.
Everyday I relive the regret and self-hatred I felt. I don’t want to make those same mistakes again and I don’t want others to either.
Chapter 12: Disgrace
When I was in junior high school I hated every single teacher and educator. I was so absorbed in campus activism that educators, police, bureaucracy, and all those related to those categories were the enemy.
One day during class my teacher hit a student, who was making a lot of noise, over the head. I immediately voiced my objection.
“Sensei, that’s violence. Please apologize. I am totally against such actions.”
The teacher then took me out into the hallway and said, “Mizutani, you will run to where I am standing” as he rose a fist into the air. His plan was to make myself run into his fist. Teachers from other classrooms saw this going on and laughed.
“Mizutani, you will run into my fist. This is not a form of physical punishment. You are doing it yourself,” the teacher spat out.
In that instant I clenched my teeth and began to run as a bitter hatred grew inside me. Tears of mortification and frustration streaming down my face, I ran into his fist with all the power I could muster. I did this over and over again and even after the teacher said, “That’s enough,” I did not stop. If I withdrew I felt like I would be admitting defeat. As all the teachers, assuming things were ending there, returned to their classrooms I gathered all my power to speak.
“Don’t you dare run away from me.”
Starting the next day I was not allowed to enter a classroom except on test days. All other days I studied in the library. So as not to worry my mother and so she would not find out about this situation, I kept to the same schedule. I left for school at the same time and returned at the same time I always had. Starting from this moment on schools and teachers became my enemy.
After this incident I never in my wildest dreams thought I would became a teacher.
ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ .♡.ღ .:*･ﾟ♡ﾟ･*:.ღ
I am working on translating more right now, but I will be out all day tomorrow to an amusement park in Tokyo with Jun for our
“anniversary” (well, we still celebrate each month. Maybe I will have a post about this amusement park at a later date?