12 March, 2009

Final post on the peculiarities of Japanese kindergartens.

12. Then of course you have the events. Sports Day, Summer Festival, Mochi Festival (Japanese pounded rice), Art Show. All of these have varying parental involvement. The sports day being universally the biggest. Our kindy’s summer festival was big, however. All families took turns at looking after their class’ stall. We've just had an end-of-year party/concert organised by the mums of the classes (there are three graduating classes). The mums planned and practised for months - no kidding. I got away with only one hour of decorating the hall on the day. Phew!

13. Sports Day, which is more like a combined outdoor concert and family picnic event. It is huge and a real community event. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, past students and teachers all rock up. The kids have prepared dances and other presentations, like gymnastics displays and practised them for about three months. They also have races! Mostly fairly non competitive stuff, though. Each mum (and grandma sometimes) puts a massive effort into preparing their family's picnic lunch. Many mums get up earlier than 6am to prepare.

 14. Apologies. I don't understand this fully, however, if your child hurts someone significantly, then you are required to apologise to their mother. This often happens by phone and I did have to do it a couple of times. I have a Japanese friend who is a Christian. Her son was so badly behaved that she ended up having an apology party at the end of the year for the whole class! Amazingly several women became Christians as a result! They all wanted to know how she managed to cope when her child was such a challenge.

 15. Socialising. This really underlies all my previous 14 points. Everything I've written about involves language, written or spoken. I've had people ask me, "Aside from the language, what is the hardest thing about living in Japan?" It really is very left brained to try and separate language from all other aspects of Japanese life. It is integral to life. If you don't have it, it is like living your life in black and white. All the interactions at kindergarten, from the greeting as you walk in in the morning, to the little chats with the teacher at the end of the day, to the complicated social interactions that you are dragged into by the nature of the youchien beast...It is all harder as a foreigner who speaks way less than perfect Japanese. It is all tiring and challenging.

Another day I'll tell you some stories about when I got it wrong and the chaos that can result! I am thankful that God gave me some very good friends who were bilingual and the kindergarten was kind enough to put us in the same class as them for three years. Well now, I am exhausted. Good night!

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