Tabidachi no Hi
Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything up here. Well, I’ll cut out everything and head right to the latest bit – grauduation.
This is the season for graduations! All schools end up around now, break for a short while, and then start up the new school year in tandem with the sakura blooms, which are supposed to indicate fresh life and a beautiful new start (around the same time as Easter in the Western world, interestingly).
Normally, High School graduations are held on the first of March. That was a Saturday this year, so luckily for me, both my schools shifted the graudation to a weekday – one to the previous Friday, and one to the following Monday. That way, I was able to attend both!
Both ceremonies kicked off with the National Anthem – a very slow song sung to the
plink-plonk of some traditional Japanese string instrument, and which I’ve never heard anyone sing with anything other than a feeling of uninterested obligation. The actual ceremony was about as boring as you’d imagine, with long-winded speeches by principals, vice principals and PTA heads, followed by speeches from reps of the graduating students, and the remaining students.
It was all horribly formal and tedious, making most of the students nod off, and as I looked around, most of the teachers as well.
The graduating students sang a song at each school. Last year at the middle school, the song of choice was “Tabidachi no Hi ni” – a song about parting ways with friends and heading into the future – a lovely song, sung through the tears of the emotional kids leaving. This year, I heard a new song on Friday – “Sora mo Toberu Hazu” (We can soar through the sky(?)), which was also quite nice but not sung with the same passion as the middle schoolers did. The art school, on Monday, ended up singing Tabidachi… but also with reduced passion. Maybe middle schoolers are just more emotional. Also, the art school is mostly girls, and introverted ones at that, so maybe that could account for the less oomphy performace. It’s still a very nice song though – here’s the first verse.
After the ceremony was when things got fun. The first and second year students were waiting outside the hall for the graduating students, to applaud and congratulate them as they filed out, and give presents and shed a few tears.
The art school had a bit of a twist on this, where the graduating students actually gave all us teachers a flower each as they left. That was a bit of a nice surprise, and it’s nice to have that smell in my room at home for a change 🙂
In home rooms, awards were given to certain students, home room teachers said final farewells, and students pored over photos of themselves from the previous three years in the special graduating yearbook. Then the whole place devolved into a photo shoot. Everybody was running around, screaming, laughing, crying, and taking rolls of film of photos (cos, despite being in Japan, most of them still use disposable cameras) of possibly their last time toegther in school uniform, while flashing the indestructible peace sign. At the first school on Friday, I got loads of photos with the students as well. The girls have always been very open about saying adoring things about me, and I’ve always assumed it was largely because, as a teacher, I was basically off-limits and they had no real reason to feel any sense of shame about it. But I was surprised to see that the “cool” guys in the class – not many of them, only one or two – were also hounded by the girls this time. They literally queued up to get one-on-one photos with these couple of guys, and then clasped hands and jumped around screaming with their friends after having them taken, while the guy tried to look away, looking a little embarrassed.
At the art school, things were a little different. There is no uniform. But, there is a fashion course. So, a large number of the students came in their own outfits which they had made at home. There were all sorts, from big flowery dresses, to smaller doll-style get-ups, through to sleek and sexy cocktail-style dresses. Those who didn’t make their own outfits came mostly in kimono – some of which had been designed or patterned themselves, or a couple came in the more sombre-looking man’s style kimono. But not the guys. With the exception of one, the guys (all, what, 4 of them?) came in suits. Here, unfortunately, I don’t know the students as well. That is to say, hardly at all. I have had no classes with them, so I only know them as well as I’ve managed to get to know them through meetings in the corridors, or at lunch-times, or awkward meetings outside the toilets, and things like that. And being naturally introverted, and with basically no ability in English, I haven’t made many friends there. So, rather than taking photos with people, I spent most of the time like a weird voyeuristic foreigner, lurking around the crowd and snapping off photos of other people. It was a shame, but that’s OK.
After the crowds died down and people headed out, and the teachers retired to the staff room, students continued to pop their head in and give the teachers an “Arigato gozaimasu, Osewa ni narimashita” – “Thank you very much, sorry to have caused you trouble” – a very nice gesture, I thought, and one that went largely ignored by most of the teachers.
I wonder how many of them I will ever see again? Probably not many, I’d imagine. Most have applied to various Universities, many of them outside of Kyoto. I have given my email address to the English course students at one school, but I imagine most of them won’t use it. Although, I do still receive emails from time to time from some of my middle school kids from last year, which is nice!