Kokoro no Oni

[If you saw a previous post — this came from my diary. Upon thinking about it further, I’ve decided to return it there.]

Today I taught second graders. The lesson was related to Setsubun, the old holiday where you throw beans at oni/ogres to keep them out of your house, and I instructed the kids on drawing oni using the English words “eyes, nose, mouth” (and somehow “horns” got into there too). The kids caught on quickly. One class demanded my signature, while the other had a veritable league of little artists drawing their oni in Cubist or Post-Impressionist style. Then, all of a sudden the teacher asked them to write their “kokoro no oni”, or “ogre of your heart”, underneath the picture.

It took me some mental bridging to figure out that an “ogre of your heart” means something that is preventing you from being a good kid, but the kids seemed to get it with no problem. Is this an ordinary Japanese expression? Not only did they understand what a “kokoro no oni” was, most of them quickly figured out which “oni” they thought plagued their hearts the most and wrote it down on the paper in a manner of seconds. Some examples of what they wrote:

  • しゅくだいさぼるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of skipping homework!
  • べんきょうしないおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of not studying!
  • わすれんぼうおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of forgetfulness!
  • きゅうしょくのこるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of leaving food on your plate at lunch!
  • いじわるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of being rude!
  • はずかしがるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of being shy!
  • かん字きらいおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of disliking kanji!

Wow! They could all grow up to be school counselors!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Japanese kids can identify their own faults. School rules such as studying well and eating your food at lunch are stressed throughout the year, and character flaws like rudeness and shyness are discussed on most popular children’s shows. Still, I can’t imagine American elementary schoolers being able to complete an assignment like this so quickly. Little kids truly have a lot of thinking power that can be molded into many different things.

Posted: January 28th, 2011 | JET