While the presidential debates monopolise the US media, in Japan a perhaps more vehemently disputed argument is being contested.
It is the question that is challenging the greatest minds of Japan’s English teaching fraternity: which is more irritating in the classroom, “Why Japanese people” or “I have a pen, I have an apple”?
Atsugiri Jason’s catchphrase “Why Japanese people?” screamed at an intolerable volume has long annoyed teachers in Japan, but there is now a new catchphrase on the block that is equally grating and, in the opinion of some, much more infuriating: “I have a pen, I have an apple.”
The phrase, lyrics from a song by DJ Kosaka Diamaou in which the Japanese ‘comedian’ explains that he has a pen, an apple and a pineapple, and is able to combine the three, is a viral sensation, with some touting it as a new ‘Gangnam Style’.
While both phrases are as nonsensical as they are vexatious, it is not their downright inanity that is grinding the gears of educators.
“I consider myself a pretty decent teacher,” said Nick Vines, a junior high school ALT for dispatch company Altear. “I spend a good fifteen minutes developing each lesson during my regular cigarette breaks, but still my pupils can barely say more than hello and goodbye. And then this Jason comes along and all of a sudden they are asking ‘Why Japanese People?’ Every fifteen bloody minutes. He’s showing me up!”
Emma Ganderton, teacher at popular Eikaiwa BEON has had similar issues with the American ‘talent’: “Atsugiri Jason is the bane of my life. Parents of my elementary school classes had been querying as to why their children were barely able to sing the ABC song, and I have explained that language acquisition isn’t so easy. But now they are all shouting ‘Why Japanese people?’ at every opportunity.”
However, Harry Stevenson, who works for Eikaiwa company YESVA, has found the DJ Kosaka Diamaou song an even greater challenge to his classroom authority. “I have been slogging my guts out with my students, pouring my heart and soul into every lesson – ensuring that I am pretty much hangover-free by lunch time – with next to zero results. Now this comedian comes along, and after one watch on YouTube they are masters of subject-verb-object. It’s driving me crazy!”
Nick Vines is in agreement: “And don’t get me started on their newfound ability to use the indefinite article. I may just give up teaching tomorrow and become an Internet sensation in a ridiculous jacket and sunglasses. It’s the only way I can regain any credibility as a teacher. Actually, not tomorrow,” he added. “I’ve only got two classes tomorrow so I’m going on the piss tonight and will be hungover as fuck.”