Gaijin Smash

The Moeko Principle

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on January 27, 2006

I’d debated for a long time as to whether or not I would actually post the “Moeko’s Owl” story.
At that time, it was radically different from all the other editorials on the site. It was a very personal story and dealt with my ex, which was a very sensitive subject. And Moeko hadn’t done it for recognition or anything like that. For a while, I doubted if it was something I should share, especially since there were more than just a few people reading. In the end, I decided that if nothing else, it was a story worth telling.
Of all the other things on this site, the Moeko’s Owl story has gotten the biggest response. People have cried, changed their outlook on life even. People have remembered their own personal Moeko’s. Of everything else, it’s this story that seems to have the most profound effect on people.
But what about the girl herself?
After I got the owl, I actually didn’t get to speak with Moeko for a few months. Even if I went to her class, I was busy with other students, and she never seemed to stick around long enough for me to talk to her. I tried to make myself available for her, but she never came. I don’t want to clearly play favorites among the students, but given the chance I would have made an effort. But I didn’t have any chances. For a while, I wondered if I’d done something wrong – maybe I wasn’t as appreciative of the owl as I should have been?
One day after class, the students were all talking to the teacher about an upcoming test. Since I usually go back to the teachers’ room with the teacher, I hung back and waited for him. I noticed Moeko, who sat in the back of the room, slowly inching her way forward. After a full minute, she’d only closed the distance between us by half. I realized at this point that she hadn’t been avoiding me or anything like that – she was just terribly shy. “Today’s pretty hot, isn’t it?” I called out to her. She nodded in agreement, and finally came closer. We talked as she walked back with me to the teachers’ room, even though that was a trip downstairs she didn’t need to make. I found out that she, like me, had a penchant for falling asleep in class because she stayed up late (she reads books until 1AM or later). I was telling her some of my favorite sleeping in class strategies, and she told me hers – “I put my hair in front of my face, so people can’t see my eyes. But then the boys call me Sadako (from The Ring).” I told her the next time they call her that, threaten to crawl out of their TV’s and steal their Playstations.

From then on, I was able to talk to Moeko more. She never came right out and approached me – stayed behind a little longer after class finished, loitered in a hallway she knew I’d be walking down, things like that. When I caught this, I’d make sure to say something light which would start a conversation.
When Moeko became a sannensei, she must have realized she wouldn’t have so many opportunities to talk to me. I don’t go to the sannensei’s classes that often, and they’re pretty busy as they are cramming for their high school entrance exams. So she came up with a way around this – note writing. She would write me a letter, and then come to the teachers’ room at lunch or between classes and give it to me. I’d write her a response and give it to her between classes. She always wrote me in English, so I wrote her in English back. I imagine this was also a good way to get around her shyness.
I went to the school’s Cultural Awareness Presentation Day. I went with my Hot Nurse friend – she didn’t work at that school anymore, but she had the day free and wanted to see the students again. During an intermission, Moeko passed me another note. Hot Nurse noticed it, and I explained a bit about our note exchange. Hot Nurse spotted her talking to some girls, and asked me if they were her friends. Moeko had mentioned them in one of her notes, so I said that they were. “Oh, I’m very glad to hear that!” Hot Nurse says, relieved. She explains – Moeko loves to read books, but part of why she does is because she doesn’t have much else. For a while, she had absolutely no friends, and was very lonely. “She used to come to the Nurse’s Room and talk to me about it.” Hot Nurse said. “She cried many times.” I hadn’t known that. I realized that more than anything else, Moeko was a lonely little girl who wanted a friend. I still can’t play favorites, but since then, I’ve made it a point to be in a position where Moeko and I would cross paths more often.
Moeko’s birthday was in November. I wanted to give her something – something that reflected how moved and appreciative I was of her owl. But it was difficult – I had to find something that would still respect the student/teacher relationship boundaries. And something that wouldn’t make the other kids upset or jealous. I would have liked to have made something for her, as she did for me, but I have little to no talent in handcrafts. The day I broke my collarbone was actually the day of her birthday, so that also limited any ability to make something for her.
I finally decided on a book – my favorite book when I was around her age, Charlotte’s Web. I gave her the English version, along with an explanatory note – “This is my favorite book. It’s a good book about friendship. I’ve read it many times. So I want to share it with you. It’s in English, so maybe a little difficult to understand now. But I know one day you will be able to read it. I look forward to the day when we can talk about this book.” I also gave her a card – as she’d done for me, I did my best (despite the broken collarbone) and drew assorted pictures inside of it (she’d asked me in one of her notes to me if she could see my drawings, even though I told her I was terrible). I also wrote the message – “I am happy. Thank you. I want you to be happy, too.” Moeko was impressed with my drawings, and said she would do her best with the book, even if it did take awhile.
For my birthday this year, she gave me another card with her drawings inside and a wonderful message. She promised a present later, now was difficult because the entrance exams were coming up. I told her not to worry about a present – she’d already done more than enough. In that class, she’d noticed me writing on the board with my right hand. “Oh, is your collarbone healed?” She asked me in English. I told her that it mostly was. “Oh, I’m very happy to hear that!” she said, and she gave the biggest smile I’ve ever seen from her. She quickly turned serious though. “But you know, the accident was all your fault.” I told her I didn’t realize I had an older sister, and she smiled again.
Moeko doesn’t know about her own fame, or just how many people she’s reached through her simple actions. I’m not going to tell her. I think she would be embarrassed more than anything. But, I know she didn’t do what she did for personal gain or recognition. A lot of people have asked me to pass along thanks, or gifts even to Moeko, and I just can’t do that. Rather than showering her with appreciation, I think the best thing to do is remember what she did, and do that for someone else. Personally, I call this the Moeko Principle. Ever since getting the owl, I’ve taken special care to notice the kids who haven’t given any reason to be noticed at all. Just because they don’t stand out, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be acknowledged as well. It doesn’t have to be much – looking over the quiet girl in the back’s English assignment, telling her she did a good job. Asking a shy boy how his soccer club practices are going, or even just remembering a student’s name. Something to show them that at least one person gives a damn that they exist. It’s not a hand-crafted owl, but hopefully it’s enough.
Moeko will graduate from junior high school soon. In one of her recent notes, she addressed this – “I will graduate from this school in March. But we will still be friends, right?” My response to her? “Don’t say silly things … of course we will.” That’s a promise I can easily keep.


30 Responses

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  1. Gabe said, on December 22, 2006 at 1:13 am

    Moeko is a girl the world needs more of. When I read the story I was in the midst of my very own breakup from hell. I am a very emotionless person, and I rarely let my emotions show. But there was something about Moeko’s Story that made me cry, not because of the breakup but because there was at least one hint of true goodness in a world that is torn like this one.
    In the age old story of Sodam & Gammorah the big guy said “find me 10 good people or it gets Nuked.” I maintain that if Moeko were there, she would be worth more than 10. Or 100. Maybe one day you can tell her that in that one act she helped thousands. She has a right to know someday, just now may not be the time. I am sure that if she were ever in trouble you would have hundreds of us rafting to Japan to come to her aid because someone so good is worth it. If you will not tell her what she did, at least tell her “Thank you” and no other explination. That will be from us, thoes who’s lives she touched.

  2. Anonymous said, on December 22, 2006 at 1:19 am


  3. Anonymous said, on December 22, 2006 at 1:19 am


  4. coma said, on December 22, 2006 at 2:55 am

    It’s kinda sad she felt like that though, and it’s nice you’re trying to be more available to her.
    Also, if you end up leaving Japan, how are you planning to keep in touch with her? email (or anything like that)? or maybe real life mail?

  5. Antar the Dragon God said, on December 22, 2006 at 3:18 am

    okay, long-time reader, first time caller…
    seriously, though, I found this particular entry really touching when I first read it: it really lets me know that there is good in humanity, even if it’s only in isolated pockets. Keep up the good work, your writing is phenomenal, hilarious, and so on, I’m constantly chomping at the bit to read new stuff. Maybe you hear this a lot, but your little anecdotal tales help me learn about people.
    enough sappiness, though…more GAIJIN SMASHes.

  6. bob dylan said, on December 22, 2006 at 6:05 am

    jesters you say?

  7. Anonymous said, on December 22, 2006 at 6:10 am

    i agree with *sniffle* i love your humour and the way you write but i’m a sucker for sappy stuff too. I’ve had a few people like that i know and are some of my best friends, and a few that because no one talked to them got lonely or really depressed and did dumb stuff. Its good to know that the other people in other parts of the world get good friends too.

  8. Anonymous said, on December 22, 2006 at 6:10 am

    i agree with *sniffle* i love your humour and the way you write but i’m a sucker for sappy stuff too. I’ve had a few people like that i know and are some of my best friends, and a few that because no one talked to them got lonely or really depressed and did dumb stuff. Its good to know that the other people in other parts of the world get good friends too.

  9. Brad said, on December 22, 2006 at 6:12 am

    Wacky you may be, but you’ve got heart as well. That’s why I’ll keep reading you.

  10. Metathran said, on December 22, 2006 at 8:32 am

    She just shows that goodness still resides in this world, but is shy to make it’s presence known in a humbling sort of way.

  11. Mr. Bomberman said, on December 22, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    You made grown men shed a tear with this.
    The “Moeko Principle” is something that everyone should follow, especially where I live, which is Staten Island.
    “You got heart, B..”

  12. Cloak said, on December 22, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    All you need is love, right?
    Merry Christmas Azrael.

  13. cutepiku said, on December 22, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    That reminds me of a friend I have..
    When I was about 12, I met this girl online. She was very friendly, and we exchanged e-mails, and chatted all the time. She told me that in real life, she’d never be this foward, because she was too shy.
    So as the years progressed, she’d send me e-mails about her problems, and visa versa, and we’d give each other advice. But we stopped talking as actively.
    Four years later, present day, we came in contact again. She was telling me about all the friends she made, and I told her she never mentioned them before. She told me that she just made some new friends, because she didn’t have any before. Apparently talking to me ONLINE, made her more assertive, and not as shy.
    It reminds me of your story, really. And to think, I’ve never met this girl, but I consider her a dear friend.

  14. CHM said, on December 23, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
    -Dale Carnegie

  15. Excel-2007 said, on December 24, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    I wish I had a Moeko.

  16. Lauren said, on December 24, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    I posted this on the I am a Japanese School Teacher forum a year ago when it happened, but I read the Moeko story one thought ‘I should do that for someone, sometime’. Of course, I was busy, blah blah blah. One day, around Christmas, I had made my friends little boxes of sweets as presents, and had made one extra to give out to a random person. After handing them out before class started, I saw a fellow student sitting in the school’s radio booth. He was the school dj, and was looking rather glum, so I popped in the room, shouted ‘HAPPY CHRISTMAS!’, dropped the box in his lap and ran away.
    Ten minutes later, he found me walking into my first class. He started crying, and hugged me several times. He told me his girlfriend had broken up with him the night before, and he was feeling depressed, and my gift had cheered him up.
    The moral of the story? Make extra cookies!
    Moeko is my hero ❤

  17. Anonymous said, on December 25, 2006 at 12:38 am

    I think Moeko is everyone’s hero.

  18. Anonymous said, on December 25, 2006 at 12:38 am

    I think Moeko is everyone’s hero.

  19. Marren said, on December 27, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    Wow.. I read all of the editorials on the old website (Much easier to navigate ^^; ) and I always debated on whether or not I should send you an e-mail. Moeko’s story touched me as well, there are far too many people in this world who have nothing but self-gain in mind, and sometimes it’s hard to believe people still exist who simply want to share happiness and smiles with others. It’s very stressing sometimes to try and inspire happiness in others when so much of the world is bitter and jaded. It makes me very happy that people like Moeko are still out there, and are recognized for what they have done, even if they never get to realize it for themselves. I think if they ever fully recognized what they were able to give someone else, it would devalue the gift.
    (And maybe you’ve said that, I’m a little sleepy right now ^^ working two jobs..)
    I guess I just wanted to say, I’m very glad you shared the story of Moeko and her owl–while I do enjoy laughing until I fall off my ass at your other editorials, Moeko’s Owl will always be one of my favorite ones to re-read and think about.

  20. Jason said, on December 29, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Tell Moeko she’s reached the hearts of many. I LOVE this story. I really hope that you tell your class about this site one day. I’d like to here their response. Maybew you can tell them the next time you read this?

  21. aucnfn said, on January 3, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    I read this a while ago, back on the old site on Outpost 9. I still read it whenever I feel really down, and it has never failed to cheer me up. The first time I read it, it touched something inside me, and I started bawling without any warning. I had been honsetly considering ending my life at that point, but your story about Moeko convinced me that there might be a Moeko of my own waiting for me, and I want to live long enough to meet her. I have become a different person with a whole new outlook on life, and my life is brighter. All because of Moeko and her kindness. She inspired me to keep on living. And I have you to thank for this. Thank-you so much for giving me my life back.

  22. Corey said, on March 9, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Nice to know there’s still some good left in the world.

  23. rolling star said, on April 7, 2007 at 1:32 pm


  24. Olga said, on April 11, 2007 at 4:34 am

    Stop doing that. Please. I usually read your postings while at work, during dead-hours and I just can’t stand this having to worry about any colleagues seeing my blurry eyes.
    Seriously, twice I ‘ve read Moeko’s owl and twice it brought tears to my eyes. And now it happens again. I think it’s a very unique relationship you have with Moeko and she, as many other unseen kids, are really special and they just don’t know it.

  25. Beatrice said, on July 15, 2007 at 7:08 am

    When I read the owl story… I sort of spontaneously started making a stuffed animal. It turned out to be a dragon (though it looks a bit like a cow) and I don’t know who to give it to yet. I was actually thinking of my English teacher from this past year, but he’s only one of the so many (four?) people in my life who mean an immeasurable amount to me. Moeko’s story did not touch me directly in many other ways than this spurt of creativity and a search for meaning within it. Now I look at it and think about those four people and if they really know how much they mean to me. I feel like making something for all of them now, because words make it sound so silly (except to my boyfriend, understandably).
    Moeko’s story is a beautiful one

  26. Emily said, on August 18, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Whenever I read about Moeko, I cry, because she really is an extraordinary girl. If there was one Moeko for every 20 jerks in the world, I think the world would be a better place.

  27. Ceri Cat said, on September 26, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Oddly enough this brings to mind a very touching movie, at least for me. I’m not entirely sure why since the kids are so different. Pay It Forward. I seriously think though everyone is right about Moeko we need more people like her, and she’s very special, who knows maybe someday you’ll see her do something fantastic, she just seems like that kind of person.

  28. Steeple said, on October 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I remember reading this and “Moeko’s Owl” a long time ago. It was such a touching story, and I’ve tried to live out the Moeko principal. I’m a very outgoing person in general, so I guess it wasn’t very difficult. However, there were two times I was at camp when I got to live it out. Both times I was volunteering as a Program Aide.
    1: Quite often we get the whole camp (a couple of score, usually) to sing around the fire circle, sometimes with requests. Everyone was singing (or we were trying to get the shy kids to sing), but one girl was extremely homesick. Normally this is expressed by not singing when it’s at the fire circle, but one small girl (she must’ve been about 6 – she was tiny) took it to the next level and started crying loudly for her Mama. I’m not really a song leader, but I was there. I noticed all of the other PAs were just looking at each other and not doing anything, while the adults were ignoring the kid to continue with the singing. Slightly frustrated with my contemporaries, I went over to the little girl and sat down next to her. At that moment, the song was a four-part round. Obviously, it was confusing for the girl, so I said, “Here, just listen to me.” I sang softly and calmly, making sure my head was bowed to her level. Eventually, she stopped crying and tried to sing with me. My patience paid off when she started singing by herself. After that, I asked, “Are you okay now?” in my calm, quiet voice. She nodded, wiping away her tears. I smiled, and said, “That’s good.” I can’t recall if I got up again or sat with her, but all the adults afterward praised me a good deal for stepping up to the plate when no one else would. I felt slightly frustrated at the other PAs and the adults for not doing it themselves, but I was happy that I could help the girl. I’m afraid I can’t recall her name, though. ^^;
    2: Same camp, same volunteering, but this time I was being a judge for those little pinewood derby things, with the little cars. The whole camp had made cars (the youngest didn’t have them cut, only painted them), and since I was a “floater”, not attached to any one unit, I was asked to judge. This went on splendidly for a while, but when we got to the third round or so, the losing girl started to cry unconsolably (That’s not a word, but it is now!). She was about 9, perhaps. All of the other PAs (and I, at first) said that it’s ok, losing isn’t a big deal, she got farther than many other girls, blah blah, but she wouldn’t have any of it. Puzzled, I decided to go to the heart of the matter and ask, “Why are you sad about losing?” The girl replied that she wanted to win a ribbon to show her mom. The other PAs tried to console her, but I got an idea. I said, “Give me your derby”, and she handed it to me. Although it was painted, the bottom was bare, like I thought it would be. Every PA is given a mini Sharpie for general purposes. I took mine a drew a little green ribbon on it. I handed it to the girl saying, “There you go: there’s a ribbon for your mom.” Everyone thought it was a great idea and I got more praise later, but the girl was just utterly happy, and sat next to me for the rest of the afternoon. ^_^
    I like to think I made some small difference in the lives of these two girls. Moeko’s Principal in action.

  29. L'il Phoenix said, on October 22, 2007 at 12:45 am

    When people like you care about these lonely kids in school, it makes a HELLUVA difference! Middle School is hell for a normal sane kid, I don’t care where you are in the world or how fancy your middle school is. It’s great to hear about someone making a difference. I think those kids who are alone may be better off in the long run, as they’re not involved in crazy preteen sex, doing stupid shit to fit in, etc.

  30. Windam said, on November 29, 2007 at 4:47 am

    I just started reading this blog the other day when a friend showed me the page “My Kids Are Emo” and we laughed for a good ten minutes straight.
    That’s not the point though.
    I just wanted to say that you’re the kind of teacher students need now. I’m barely a college freshman right now, and I remember being in high school and always wanting someone to talk to. There’s a ton of comments about how people knew Moekos, but none from the shy kids.
    I remember that all my teachers would pay attention to you if you were loud, or if you were social. If you were that kid that sat in the library reading during lunch, you were screwed. It was always the kids the teachers knew well that did well, so I, as one of the kids who was never outgoing, never faired particularly well. Until my senior year when I had a teacher who was actually willing to ask me how I was once in a while.
    So, for everyone who saw this from wherever they found it, who was too shy to say this: Thank you for telling this story. It’s nice to know that people actually care about the state of other human beings, and it’s nice to know that when we do something, people are grateful that we did, and we’re not all nothings.
    Thanks ^_^

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