Three of my four schools had their *bunkasai* (culture festival) yesterday. I thought they were all on Sunday, but one of them was Saturday so I missed it. The culture festival is like a combination of a talent show, PTA meeting, fund-raising sale, community lunch, and show-and-tell. All of the schools come up with something for all of the students to take part in, like singing or traditional dance.
I visited all three, but I hung out at Yamato for the longest. Yamato is my smallest school, tucked away in a little valley about fifteen minutes from the coast. I’m not allowed to choose favorites, but if I were this would be the one. If they were to hint that I could get a regular job there after this one I would do about anything to get it. Yamato has about twenty students from first through ninth grades. The community is so tight there, it’s a wonderful place to finish every week. While teachers at other schools have a hard time keeping reigns on classes of thirty+ kids, it’s pretty dang easy with classes of two to four. They can get the amount of attention needed for a language class–especially when there are two teachers.
One thing that blows me away is the amount freedom given to the kids. This is true at all schools, but Yamato is a particularly good example. During the recess break after lunch (*hiruyasumi*) the students can run around about anywhere they want. One day at recess it really hit me how well they control themselves and take care of each other. Just about all of the students got into a game of dodge ball. This was a free-for-all, minimal rules kind of affair, the only infrastructure being five or six rubber bouncy balls and the center-line of the gym floor. The game went on for about forty minutes, with tiny six-year-olds and big-boned fifteen-year-olds alike taking part in the chaos. What amazed me is that not a single kid went down as a causality, not a single tear was shed. There were no responsible grown-up types running around trying to control everything. It just worked.
I wondered if these kids’ childhood is somehow missing something from not being able to get away mischief… Not that I ever got away with anything, but at least I could get into it some. How much did that add to my life though? Who knows.
The past few weeks have seen all of my schools buzzing getting ready for their respective culture festivals. In this as well, students often self-organized to practice and prepare. Yamato’s big shows were “Minuet in G” played by the elementary students, a drama about a bomb in an elevator by the middle school students, and some traditional dances (with costumes) by the whole school. There are pictures of the kids in costume here:
After the culture fest I was heading home and recognized some characters on a sign that said “park” and pointed towards a mountain. I’d wanted to climb that mountain for a while, but had no idea if there were trails or if it were legal or anything. I found what looked like a trailhead, parked and headed up towards my goal. It was a clear, brisk day, the sun was setting, and I was on the dark side of the mountain. I worried that I’d get cold, but climbing kept me plenty warm. When I had almost reached the top I found a parking lot (doh), but that didn’t spoil it for me at all. I said good afternoon to a man with an unironic trucker cap and his kids, and he looked up at me like a deer in headlights. I smiled and waved to his kids, and asked “what might this mountain’s name be?”
“Kujihiradake,” he said as his deery expression softened, “when the weather is right you can see Mt. Iwate from the peak.”
I thanked him and walked the rest of the way up. I thought I could see Iwate-san poking out of the clouds, but wasn’t sure. I’ll be going up there often in the future, I expect. I want to make snow-shoes out of bamboo for winter outdoorsering.
Check out the photos, and send me some love,
PS… For a gazillion more pictures of my time in Japan:
PPS… So you want more of [ofo]? The nitty-gritty? General whining? Political ranting? Specific complaining? Everyday observations? Cliquez ici.