school year is peppered with interesting and exciting events.
From the first day of school to graduation, the Japanese are
big believers in school unity and set a standard to ceremony.
first event of the year, which is also the only thing that
happens the first day of school, is the opening ceremony.
On the first day, the students meet their new teachers, new
teachers are introduced to the entire assembly, and several
very long speeches are made. Not a very exciting event, but
usually one to dress up for, as the JET usually makes a speech,
too! A nervewracking experience, with sometimes a thousand
students, the entire faculty and parents looking on.
try to stay awake
during a long ceremony.
the Japanese put a lot of stock in ceremony and proceedure.
Every day after the opening ceremony there is a "morning
meeting" in the teachers' room. During these meetings,
the teachers collectively greet the principal of the school
and he says a few words to the teachers. This is also where
the teachers discuss any big problems the school faces and depending
on the school, classes could be delayed by an overtime morning
meeting. At most schools, the JET is expected to attend the
morning meetings, so if you're a prospective JET, plan on going
to a lot of meetings!
the next big event to occur would be the bunkasai,
or "culture day". Students prepare for this day weeks
in advance. During the bunkasai, handcrafts are displayed,
musical talents are showcased, and a play is staged in the auditorium.
It's an open house as well and parents are welcomed into the
school to see the students work and skill. Each class decorates
their classroom with a particular theme in mind, and a prize
goes out to the class with the best and most creative decorations.
Sometimes the school will contract out for a big act; one year
a school of mine hired a touring Peruvian band to perform for
the students and parents. It's an enormous amount of work for
the teachers and the students, but when it all comes off well
in the end it is time well spent.
event that I got involved with every year was the annual English
Recitation Contest. If any of you JETs have a contest like
this in your city, town or prefecture, I highly recommend
getting involved. In my city, the few top winners of the contest
get an all expense paid trip for a week to somewhere in the
United States! At one or more of my schools I would coach
that year's entrants. At left is a photo of some of my students,
teachers, and myself after Mariko (third from left) placed
second in the contest for that year.
thing that JETs always watch with fascination and stark disbelief
is the calisthenics routine the entire school (students and
teachers) peform before any school activity. The students
arrange themselves neatly outside on the field with the teachers
lined up in front of them and one of the teachers begins the
tape. The recording sounds like it is about fifty years old
and is a bizzare mix of manly yelps and elevator music. The
entire school twists and rotates in time with the music without
complaint or stopping to think how absurd this all must look
to the foreigner. These exercises alone would never get someone
into shape; they are only meant to be a route activity which
the entire school participates in. A very light-weight bonding
experience and a mental cue to prepare them for the day ahead.
the principal leads the morning calisthenics before "Sports
Day" or "Sports Festival" is anothe day that they
students and teachers spend quite a bit of time preparing for.
This may be held at the school or they may go to a sports arena
or track to hold the event. It is held over two days, a practice
and the actual festival. On Sports Day, there are ALL kinds of
sporting activities. Pole vaulting, shotput, relay races, ...
all the big ones. And there are a few that I never saw before.
There was one activity I saw that looked like just a mad dash
for colored bouncing balls. Another activity I saw looked like
shotput, but instead of a small, metal ball, it was a giant whiffle-ball.
A routine sports day activity at my friends school involved attempting
to climb up a long pole while other students tried to pull you
to the ground. Chaotic, crazy, or typical, they're all good, clean
o' War on "Sports Day"
popular event for the teachers is an enkai. An enkai
literally means "drinking party". Most of the teachers
will get together and go to a restaraunt. Everyone pulls numbers
out of a hat and sits according to that number. Everyone eats
and drinks all they can and let me tell you, sometimes they
really let their hair down!
an enkai where I am the guest of honor