The Japanese, as I’ve written many times, are quite group oriented, and it’s interesting to observe some of the actual mechanisms that support this aspect of society. In virtually my entire education from the 7th grade on, I’ve had mixed schedules — math in second period with Mr. Johnson, English in third period with Mr. Mihalka and so on, with different students around me each hour. In Japan, the system is quite different: students are are assigned to a class that they stay in all year long, with teachers coming and going each hour. Being with the same students all day for a year often has the effect of bringing them closer together, and it’s probably more common for Japanese to maintain those connections throughout their lives than for Americans. Japanese usually get two sets of these special school groups: those they attended Elementary and Junior High School with, usually kids from the same neighborhood; and friends from High School, which is not part of compulsory education, thus students are free to choose which school they want to go to based on their study goals. My son commutes to school with several boys, a group that calls themselves Hosoya-gumi since they get off the train at Hosoya Station. It wouldn’t surprise me if they maintained their friendship throughout their lives.
Doraemon’s Go-Anywhere Door” offering for 2008.