First Impressions: Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo
Romanized title: Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo
English title: Japanese that Japanese Don’t Know
Broadcast stations: YTV / NTV
Broadcast dates: 15 July – 30 September 2010
Cast: Naka Riisa, Aoki Munetaka, Harada Natsuki, Asaka Mayumi, Ikeda Narushi, Sethna Cyrus Nozomu, Blake Crawford, Camilla, ZOE, Olga Alex, Mayo, Sebastiano Serafini, Dasha, Zhang Mo
Theme song: “Boku Kimi Believer” by ghostnote
Synopsis: Charismatic shop girl Kano Haruko quits her job to pursue her dream career of being a teacher. What she doesn’t know is that she won’t be teaching at a prep school, but rather a Japanese Language school for foreign students. This throws our new teacher (she has a degree to teach high school) for quite the loop. From the beginning, misunderstandings and conflicts abound between Haruko and the other teachers and Haruko and her students. Will Haruko be able to tough it all out for her three months in order to get a job at a real high school?
Coming off her lead role as megane-chan Adachi Hana in Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, Naka Riisa takes on a more adult role as Japanese Language teacher Kano Haruko. The drama starts off with Haruko scolding a black man for not giving up his seat to an elderly woman. Haruko scolds him as simply as possible and uses hand gestures to try to communicate. The man replies in English that he is tired and asks Haruko to go ask someone else to give up her seat. This infuriates her and she starts yelling at him good and gets all the Japanese on the bus cheering for her and what she said. The man does end up giving his seat to the granny. Naka’s Haruko doesn’t seem to be a far cry from reformed yankee Adachi, both seem nice and sweet but are tough with a temper.
Haruko finally makes it to the school only to see the black man from the bus running at her at full speed. Freaked out thinking he is after her for revenge, she starts screaming and running. Haruko manages to flatten one of the teachers against the wall as she makes her escape. They were just talking about how much of a help the arrival of the new teacher would be, too, and she is already causing such a ruckus. She sees another teacher and yells at him to quickly call the police. He goes to get his cell out, but then he recognizes the man chasing her. The black man, Bob, asks if he is late and the teacher replies he is just on time. This shocks Haruko. The teacher then turns to her and tells her to leave before he calls the police on her for trespassing. That’s when she makes the announcement that she is the new teacher. Way to make an impression. The other two teachers she ran by come up and ask what her problem is. And she reiterates that she has come to work at this prep school. Prep school? Sensei Takasu Kazuki (Ikeda Narushi) has the pleasure of telling Haruko that it isn’t a prep school, but a Japanese Language School for foreign students. Haruko doesn’t want to believe him, but when she opens the classroom door, foreigners of all ages greet her.
Flipping through a magazine, sensei Katori (Katherine) Miyuki (Harada Natsuki) sees Haruko’s picture and can’t believe the charismatic shop girl came to teach at their school. She goes and asks if that is really her and Haruko says yes, but she has already quit the shop to take this job as a teacher. Takasu doesn’t want to let Haruko stay as he doesn’t think she’ll be able to handle it. Haruko asks for a chance and asks if he will just observe her once. Haruko introduces herself to the class in really simple Japanese. They just stare at her. She tries to make it even simpler and one student, Jack from America (Blake Crawford), says that they understand, so why doesn’t she start the lesson. Haruko is surprised at his Japanese level. Takasu then says they all have basic conversational skills. She scolds him for not telling him earlier and begins the lesson on counting (which seems way too complicated). The students are confused about how many different ways you can count things depending on size, shape, state, and other various things. Haruko tries to explain all the differences, but admits to being stumped. Takasu steps in and explains things. The students aren’t happy wen it appears Haruko is learning along with them. Haruko asks Takasu to leave and let her try on her own. He does and Haruko is soon overwhelmed with questions – amazed at just how many words she doesn’t know being a native Japanese speaker. Things get out of hand and she runs out of the classroom.
Haruko goes to visit the principal who is in the hospital earlier than planned for some procedure. Akimoto Kuniko (Askaka Mayumi) swears she told Haruko that she was going to be teaching at a Japanese language school. Haruko insists that she didn’t and that she isn’t cut out for this job. Akimoto asks her to tough it out for three months. If she can, then Akimoto will definitely keep her promise to help Haruko find a job at a regular high school. Haruko is still uncertain as to whether or not she can do the job. Akimoto says that this job will definitely help prepare Haruko for her job as a high school teacher. Akimoto then says as a teacher, they not only have to teach the students Japanese, but they have to guide and mentor them as well. Akimoto asks Haruko to remember why she wanted to become a teacher (brief flashback to Haruko volunteering at a children’s house and one of the kids thanks her for reading a story and calls her “sensei”). Akimoto then gives Haruko some free dinner tickets for a restaurant.
At the restaurant, Haruko is shocked to be greeted by Bob and even more shocked to see Tasaku and Shibuya Taiyo sensei (Aoki Munetaka). Apparently a lot of their students give them meal tickets. Shibuya gives Haruko the breakdown of a foreign student’s life and working options, all of which surprise Haruko. Takasu then helps Bob by telling him what the manager of the restaurant was asking for and looks at Haruko. He tells her that there is one word that is not taught in textbooks that is essential to life: survival. All those questions the students asked that Haruko thought were using to tease her, are things necessary to their survival and every day life. Tasaku then tells Haruko to not bother coming back if she can’t do what she needs to do and help the students. This makes her even more determined to try. She goes to the school and takes a whole stack of books. Katori says that books aren’t supposed to leave school, but Haruko says that she won’t tell about Katori kissing a picture of Shibuya if she lets her take them.
The next day, Shibuya and Takasu are freaked out when they find none of the students in class. Katori spills the beans that Haruko has taken the students to a restaurant for class. The two teachers then set off to find her. Meanwhile, Haruko is answering all the questions they asked in class the day before. In a practical setting, she tells them what dishes and other things are called. Takasu pulls her aside and asks her what she’s doing. She said she is teaching. He asks why isn’t she doing it at school, and she tells them it is better for them to have the hands on experience so that they remember better. Takasu and Shibuya are also touched when Haruko has Bob wash the dishes in order to practice so his boss doesn’t yell at him and call him a worthless foreigner any more. Bob goes back to his restaurant and the boss is impressed with his dish washing skills. He asks Bob for a pan and Bob refers to the different pans by names. This makes the boss decide to let Bob start help cooking ramen. Haruko is happy to see her hard work paying off and helping her students.
Haruko goes to school the next day trying to dress more like a teacher (Bob commented that she doesn’t look like one) and failing miserably. Tasaku understands that she is just there temporarily for three months until she can get a job in a high school. Haruko says she will work hard and do her best. She also says she will take responsibility and have all of her students graduate. Uh-oh. She then makes a promise with Takasu that she will give up being a high school teacher if they fail. Shibuya then says that it is almost impossible for even them to get all of their students to pass the graduate exam. Takasu also lets her know that he will be the one making it. Looks like its trouble ahead for our newbie teacher.
My thoughts: A funny and informative show that teaches without getting to dull. Though I must admit my head was spinning during the ways to count lesson. The non-Japanese class’s acting isn’t all that horrible as some foreign actors tend to be. It does remind me of Gokusen because you have a person who is passionate about teaching who no one really wants to hire and who is constantly making mistakes and going against the traditional teaching methods. It looks like we’ll learn some Japanese in every episode and watch as Haruko bonds with her students and helps them out in their lives with their problems.
Not a serious or heavy drama, goofy, but not too bad. That being said, not a drama I will cover. I like the idea behind the show, but don’t really think it lends itself to recapping very well. Although, it could be interesting to go through the little Japanese lessons that are smattered throughout.