13 June, 2016

Busy summers

When we first came to Japan it was a bit of a shock to realise that everyone seemed to holiday in the middle of the year. It shouldn't have been, because many Australians holiday during summer! However the Queensland climate and school calendar tends to spread things out a little more. So people also holiday at Easter, mid-winter, and in September when there are two or more weeks of school holidays. Northern hemisphere folk seem to be much more inclined to only take vacations in summer.
This is Yamanaka lake. We took a few days holiday there
last summer in the SEND compound. It's beautiful, with an
amazing view of Mt Fuji.

Of course that makes sense if you've got kids in school. The school calendars (both Japanese and international) are not conducive to taking holidays any other time. We're really spoiled in Australia.

We mostly figured that out after 3 ¾ years in Hokkaido. Actually it made a lot of sense up there, because snow is on the ground for about five months of the year, so there is a very short season of warmth. 

Even so, it took us a while to figure out the pattern for summer in this international school community when we moved here eleven years ago. Eleven weeks of holidays isn't just a void, there's lots of stuff happening. Here's are some of the types of things people do during the summer:
  1. Summer School. During the first four weeks of the holidays the school holds summer school classes. This is optional for most, but I believe that ESL/EAL students are required to go to classes to boost their English levels. There's a large variety of classes running this year, including tennis, writing, robotics, algebra, Korean etc. My house emptied out this morning as all four guys went to "school". The boys are doing wrestling for two hours every morning this week and David's teaching Science labs especially for home schoolers, but he has a couple of other students from CAJ as well. The photography class that I did on Saturday was part of this programme. It's wonderful of the school to put these classes on, it's an opportunity to work on weaknesses, pursue your passions, or dip your toe into something new.
  2. Camps. Two big camps that happen this week and next are like SU camps we have in Australia. Called Joy Bible Camps, there is primary/elementary school this week and middle school next week. Our boys have all experienced these wonderful camps out where I went with the Grade 5s last month. There are other English-speaking camps happening during the summer, but none are as well known at CAJ as these two. In July there is a high schooler camp run by a group called HiBA (high schoolers born again), this year our eldest is going to that for the first time.
  3. Conferences. We're doing this next week: our mission has a national conference in Japan where almost all the missionaries in our mission will meet together for a week of fellowship, teaching, learning, discussing, and other matters. There are various events that the missionary community is a part of in various missions and countries. US has TCK gatherings too.
  4. Overseas travel. A lot of families travel overseas, usually to visit extended family, but also some to do deputation, visiting supporters and churches. Some travel for study, or just for fun.
  5. Domestic travel. This is common for those of us who stay around. There are several places that missionaries go. We frequently hear the names Takayama, Yamanaka, Karuizawa, and Nojiri. All four of these places have holiday cabins belonging to missionaries and/or missions. One is sea-side, two are lake-side and the fourth is in the mountains. For many long-term missionary families, this is where they holiday every summer, often with many other missionary families close by. Our family is doing the unusual in taking a camping trip to places where there aren't other missionaries.
  6. Mission trips. This is something we hear about being done by high schoolers and uni students who still have connections with families at CAJ. Some of them are in-country, like the Gospel Teams that HiBA run, reaching out to Japanese high schoolers. Others are short term trips to other countries.
  7. Summer jobs. This isn't something we hear about so often, but there are high schoolers who get summer jobs in Japan, some with missions here (like helping out at a campsite).
  8. Staying in Tokyo, hanging out at home. Not so common either, but it does happen. Especially when one or both parents have to work through the summer. Sometimes families split up and one parent and the kids go to their home country. But most people have some time of hanging out at home during the 11 weeks.
Phew, that's a lot of stuff. But usually when you ask what people they're doing over the summer, these are the answers you hear.

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