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English teaching in Japan

Shakespeare and Madonna in Kyoto

While walking along Kiyamachi Street, headingtoward Shijo, I noticed a couple of teenage girls handing out what looked to be large quantities of soft tissue paper. Although I had been in Kyoto just a few days, I had already discovered that in a country where there is absolutely no toilet paper in any public bathroom, the value of soft paper approached that of the rarest raw blowfish. So I braved the traffic, ran against the light, and joined the already considerable pack of kids in front of the girls, who I noticed were wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts. These young women were nothing if not fresh, despite their obsequiousness to all who thrust open palms their way.

The packs of tissue were printed with a picture of someone more than slightly resembling Yahoo Serious. The name “Dr. G” was written underneath.

The recipients of the girls’ largesse soon began disappearing through a door nearly hidden behind the enormous cartons in which the tissue was stored, so I followed them down a spiral staircase, through two doors, and into a rather large auditorium. The stage was lavishly decorated with metallic streamers which, when combined with the lighting, created a kind of Star Search effect. Fully expecting Ed McMahon to glide from the wings, sporting shimmering lapels and a silvery pompadour, I settled back in my chair and waited.

The droves of young people around me looked healthier and brighter than any I had ever seen, and they were buzzing with great animation and excitement. When the lights onstage brightened, I realized the streamers strung along the back curtain actually spelled out in huge letters DR. G’S FUNDAMENTALIST ENGLISH ACADEMY.

Suddenly Dr. G propelled himself onstage, chattering constantly through a cordless mike. “I feel good, I feel good. I feel so good today,” he crooned as he began to dance on the stage floor that reflected the spotlights like polished black marble. Dr. G looked to be about 26, six feet tall. He was blond and elegantly dressed in a light-colored Armani suit, a subtle rose silk shirt and black tie (probably Dior), and black leather boots (Gucci). He spoke perfect provincial English, like that acquired through years of private schooling in Australia. The only odd thing about him was that his hair was sculpted straight up from his head, like a glistening blond diadem, and he wore black, Scott Molina triathlete goggles. Behind him trailed a handsome Japanese boy, hair and clothes identical to Dr. G’s. Through a second mike, the boy began translating everything the doctor yelled to the crowd.

This stylish freak and his shadow seemed to hold the audience spellbound. “Do you know why I feel so gooood today?” Dr. G shouted. “No,” replied a chorus of voices — a phalanx of the cute Mickey Mouse girls, ringing the back wall of the auditorium. “Because I looovvve English,” he replied triumphantly. He paused just long enough for his clone to translate and then began dancing and wailing across the stage like Marjoe Gortner.

“YesIdoyesIdoyesIdoyesIdo.” The clone followed suit, though his dancing was considerably better. “And ya know what? English looovvvves me! Yesitddesyesitdoesyesitdoes yesitdoes.”

Nothing now could restrain Dr. G. He began strutting, sliding, hip-hopping, and waving his mike at the crowd like Ozzy Osbourne, doing splits in good James Brown fashion, screaming, “Oh, I feel soogood, feeelsoogood, feelsoogooood.”

He suddenly stopped and peered out at the audience, which had been silent throughout the performance. “Don’t you want to feeeel gooood toooo?” he tantalized.

“Yes, we do, we do, we do,” shouted back the Mickey Mousers.

“Well youcanyoucanyoucanyoucan.”

“How?” asked the girls.

“Study the good language,” Dr. G, replied, “and you can feel good every day. Learn the language of Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Madonna, and you will never lack the companionship that beautiful speech can bring. For remember, all you wonderful people, ENGLISH LOOOVVES YOU TOO! OH YES IT DOES YES IT DOES YES IT DOES!”

The stage darkened. Smoke began streaming across the floor, and colored lasers shot back and forth through the mist. Seven teenage boys dressed in satin Sergeant Pepper uniforms of different colors bounced onstage in perfect unison. “Our love is seven vowels away from you, baby,” they sang, as they began an elaborately choreographed routine. Singing something about the erotic magic of English, they assembled into a V formation aimed at the audience, through which each boy would slide on his knees and then execute an incredibly acrobatic routine, while the others were grinding their pelvises to suggest that only they contained the central organ of speech. Finally, the boys left the stage to wild, raucous applause, singing, “A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y and W.”

Dr. G and his partner reappeared in new designer wear. On one side of the stage were three men dressed like Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Madonna. They stood in front of a long aquarium. Dr. G explained how important these people were to English letters and that soon the audience could read and understand these literary lions in their native language. But if they wanted to read only one of them, the writers could be subjected to a short test to see which was most worth reading.

At Dr. G’s command, the three costumed figures took gulps of air and thrust their heads into the tank, amid swarms of brightly colored tropical fish. The audience erupted into hysterical laughter. Each character held his breath as long as he could before surfacing. First out was Madonna, followed by Hemingway, then Shakespeare. While the performers wiped their faces and extracted pieces of fish food from their eyebrows (difficult for Madonna, since hers were painted on), Dr. G concluded that the Bard was the author we should always read first. Then the three bowed and left the stage, with the audience clapping loudly and still hooting laughter.

When the house lights came up, Dr. G said it was time to demonstrate how easy it was to learn English. Scanning the first few rows of the audience, he spotted an innocent-looking girl. Jumping down from the stage, the doctor strode directly up to her while a few dozen of the Mickey Mousers came down the aisle to stand near her seat. The girl was quivering noticeably. As Dr. G thrust the microphone in her face, she stood up and crossed her arms in front of her, like a victim trying to fend off an approaching vampire. Dr. G was not deterred. With his partner positioned on the other side of the trembling girl, he began sweetly to ask her name and where she was from. At first she just shook her head. Then she began weeping. Dr. G and his compatriot kept to their task. When the girl passed into a frozen trance, he had the Mouseketeers carry her to the stage, where she was seated in an armchair.

Dr. G crouched down and began whispering to her. Finally, the girl opened her eyes, looked at him, and smiled shyly. Rising from her chair, unsteadily, like a marionette, she faced the audience and said into the doctor’s mike, “My name is Masumi Kurata. I am 20 years old and would like to learn English so I can make many new friends all over the world and help contribute to world peace. Please tell me how I can take lessons at this school.” As the Mouse girls began to distribute school contracts to the audience, I slipped from my seat and made my way out the door.

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While walking along Kiyamachi Street, headingtoward Shijo, I noticed a couple of teenage girls handing out what looked to be large quantities of soft tissue paper. Although I had been in Kyoto just a few days, I had already discovered that in a country where there is absolutely no toilet paper in any public bathroom, the value of soft paper approached that of the rarest raw blowfish. So I braved the traffic, ran against the light, and joined the already considerable pack of kids in front of the girls, who I noticed were wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts. These young women were nothing if not fresh, despite their obsequiousness to all who thrust open palms their way.

The packs of tissue were printed with a picture of someone more than slightly resembling Yahoo Serious. The name “Dr. G” was written underneath.

The recipients of the girls’ largesse soon began disappearing through a door nearly hidden behind the enormous cartons in which the tissue was stored, so I followed them down a spiral staircase, through two doors, and into a rather large auditorium. The stage was lavishly decorated with metallic streamers which, when combined with the lighting, created a kind of Star Search effect. Fully expecting Ed McMahon to glide from the wings, sporting shimmering lapels and a silvery pompadour, I settled back in my chair and waited.

The droves of young people around me looked healthier and brighter than any I had ever seen, and they were buzzing with great animation and excitement. When the lights onstage brightened, I realized the streamers strung along the back curtain actually spelled out in huge letters DR. G’S FUNDAMENTALIST ENGLISH ACADEMY.

Suddenly Dr. G propelled himself onstage, chattering constantly through a cordless mike. “I feel good, I feel good. I feel so good today,” he crooned as he began to dance on the stage floor that reflected the spotlights like polished black marble. Dr. G looked to be about 26, six feet tall. He was blond and elegantly dressed in a light-colored Armani suit, a subtle rose silk shirt and black tie (probably Dior), and black leather boots (Gucci). He spoke perfect provincial English, like that acquired through years of private schooling in Australia. The only odd thing about him was that his hair was sculpted straight up from his head, like a glistening blond diadem, and he wore black, Scott Molina triathlete goggles. Behind him trailed a handsome Japanese boy, hair and clothes identical to Dr. G’s. Through a second mike, the boy began translating everything the doctor yelled to the crowd.

This stylish freak and his shadow seemed to hold the audience spellbound. “Do you know why I feel so gooood today?” Dr. G shouted. “No,” replied a chorus of voices — a phalanx of the cute Mickey Mouse girls, ringing the back wall of the auditorium. “Because I looovvve English,” he replied triumphantly. He paused just long enough for his clone to translate and then began dancing and wailing across the stage like Marjoe Gortner.

“YesIdoyesIdoyesIdoyesIdo.” The clone followed suit, though his dancing was considerably better. “And ya know what? English looovvvves me! Yesitddesyesitdoesyesitdoes yesitdoes.”

Nothing now could restrain Dr. G. He began strutting, sliding, hip-hopping, and waving his mike at the crowd like Ozzy Osbourne, doing splits in good James Brown fashion, screaming, “Oh, I feel soogood, feeelsoogood, feelsoogooood.”

He suddenly stopped and peered out at the audience, which had been silent throughout the performance. “Don’t you want to feeeel gooood toooo?” he tantalized.

“Yes, we do, we do, we do,” shouted back the Mickey Mousers.

“Well youcanyoucanyoucanyoucan.”

“How?” asked the girls.

“Study the good language,” Dr. G, replied, “and you can feel good every day. Learn the language of Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Madonna, and you will never lack the companionship that beautiful speech can bring. For remember, all you wonderful people, ENGLISH LOOOVVES YOU TOO! OH YES IT DOES YES IT DOES YES IT DOES!”

The stage darkened. Smoke began streaming across the floor, and colored lasers shot back and forth through the mist. Seven teenage boys dressed in satin Sergeant Pepper uniforms of different colors bounced onstage in perfect unison. “Our love is seven vowels away from you, baby,” they sang, as they began an elaborately choreographed routine. Singing something about the erotic magic of English, they assembled into a V formation aimed at the audience, through which each boy would slide on his knees and then execute an incredibly acrobatic routine, while the others were grinding their pelvises to suggest that only they contained the central organ of speech. Finally, the boys left the stage to wild, raucous applause, singing, “A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y and W.”

Dr. G and his partner reappeared in new designer wear. On one side of the stage were three men dressed like Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Madonna. They stood in front of a long aquarium. Dr. G explained how important these people were to English letters and that soon the audience could read and understand these literary lions in their native language. But if they wanted to read only one of them, the writers could be subjected to a short test to see which was most worth reading.

At Dr. G’s command, the three costumed figures took gulps of air and thrust their heads into the tank, amid swarms of brightly colored tropical fish. The audience erupted into hysterical laughter. Each character held his breath as long as he could before surfacing. First out was Madonna, followed by Hemingway, then Shakespeare. While the performers wiped their faces and extracted pieces of fish food from their eyebrows (difficult for Madonna, since hers were painted on), Dr. G concluded that the Bard was the author we should always read first. Then the three bowed and left the stage, with the audience clapping loudly and still hooting laughter.

When the house lights came up, Dr. G said it was time to demonstrate how easy it was to learn English. Scanning the first few rows of the audience, he spotted an innocent-looking girl. Jumping down from the stage, the doctor strode directly up to her while a few dozen of the Mickey Mousers came down the aisle to stand near her seat. The girl was quivering noticeably. As Dr. G thrust the microphone in her face, she stood up and crossed her arms in front of her, like a victim trying to fend off an approaching vampire. Dr. G was not deterred. With his partner positioned on the other side of the trembling girl, he began sweetly to ask her name and where she was from. At first she just shook her head. Then she began weeping. Dr. G and his compatriot kept to their task. When the girl passed into a frozen trance, he had the Mouseketeers carry her to the stage, where she was seated in an armchair.

Dr. G crouched down and began whispering to her. Finally, the girl opened her eyes, looked at him, and smiled shyly. Rising from her chair, unsteadily, like a marionette, she faced the audience and said into the doctor’s mike, “My name is Masumi Kurata. I am 20 years old and would like to learn English so I can make many new friends all over the world and help contribute to world peace. Please tell me how I can take lessons at this school.” As the Mouse girls began to distribute school contracts to the audience, I slipped from my seat and made my way out the door.

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