Thursday, June 28, 2007


It seems the end of the school term is the same the world over.

The last day of school before summer break may not be until the end of July, but that doesn't mean things haven't started to wind down here (and keep in mind there are still two more terms to go in the Japanese school year). Yesterday I was treated to movie day at the local elementary school along with all of the other children in town. And I mean ALL of them. Kindergartens and nursery schools included. It was amazing to see how well a group of about 250 children from ages 4 - 12 behaved.

The movie itself wasn't the greatest, but thanks to it's being a kiddie film and majestically overacted I could pretty much follow along. Much more fun than sitting in the teachers room (or the office for that matter -- the screening took place in the same building where the Board of Education is located).

The movie, 子ぎつねヘレ (ko gitsune Helen, aka Helen the baby fox), is about a solitary boy who lives in Hokkaido and finds a fox cub. Who happens to be deaf and blind. So he names it Helen (in honour of Helen Keller, a mainstay of English textbooks in Japan), and takes care of it. My favorite bits were the parts where they make middle-of-nowhere Hokkaido look vibrant and not like it's slowly being abandoned. Don't get me wrong -- there's lots of pretty bits here, most of them also happen to feature abandoned houses and crumbling infrastructure.

The ending is sad, and had all of the teachers around me crying. And most of the kids. Okay, and maybe me too. A little. It was the music I tell you!

It was my last class with the Grade 5's and 6's. The older kids all wrote me cards, played me a special song, and we played one last game of Bingo together. Awww.... The Grade 5 class gave me an elementary school send off, making an archway to crawl through like they do at elementary graduation. It's vaguely like being reborn, but that feeling probably had more to do with me being a big gaijin and they being small Japanese children.

Next week? Swimming lessons with Grades 3 and 4! Don't forget your swim cap and goggles!

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