Sports Day Olympic Ceremony Style

When I returned to school after the summer break (way back in September ’16, with the worst of the summer heat abated, thank goodness), I found that my number of lessons had been cut in half at what was normally my busiest school. It turned out that this was to make time for the sports day preparations. As one of the biggest events of the school year, a huge amount of effort goes into making the day memorable, which means hours and hours of practice – not just for the events, but for the opening ceremony.

I’ll just say, based on the rehearsals I was able to watch at MS2, I can’t wait to see what the organisers pull out of the bag for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, because damn.

I got pretty emotional just watching the sixth grade rehearsals (okay, yes I get emotional at things like this very easily), it was so poignant and beautiful. To give you an idea of the feeling, these are the songs they danced to in order.

One Summer’s Day – Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away soundtrack)
This started with all the kids running from the corners of the sports ground into their places, and it was so quiet all you could hear were their bare feet hitting the ground.

Hero – Amuro Namie
This involved a lot of complicated and amazing balancing acts that I am almost certain would not be allowed in the U.K. because of Supreme Overlord Killjoy, Health & Safety.

Minna ga Minna Eiyuu – Yuna Shirayuki
This is the song that got me – it still gives me goosebumps. The kids danced with red, blue, yellow and green flags, in four blocks. It’s really hard to put into words how emotive it was. Just like at the beginning, everything was silent apart from the snapping of the flag material as they all moved in sync or in canon.
The funny thing is the song is actually from a commercial for AU – a Japanese phone company…

Near the end of the school year, at the goodbye ceremony for the sixth graders at MS2, a couple of the younger years performed the same dances for them.
Safe to say I wasn’t the only one crying that time.

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A Day in the Life: Mountain School 2

A while back I had a particularly eventful lunchtime at my second mountain school which I thought earned the time to type, which I did, and then promptly forgot to edit and post. Shocking.

I get assigned to various classes for lunch time, to share around the ‘foreigner experience’ and to practice English in an informal setting. This only works well with some classes, as most of the time the older classes are too awkward to try and the younger classes don’t have nearly enough English to communicate much effectively. It’s hard to ask/explain everything you are trying to ask, and eat at the same time.

So a few months ago now, in MS2 (my favourite school for reasons I will link here later), I was assigned a second grade class for lunch.

There’s always the general milling about as everyone waits for the bell to go and everyone’s food is set up, then the kanshashite‘s and the itadakimasu‘s, and everyone tucks in. The principal always comes round with the surplus food, triggering a heated round of janken (janken – rock, paper, scissors – is law).

I had a particularly big portion (this fluctuates a lot, and I really prefer not to have so much to eat at lunchtime), and it was one of the few days where I wasn’t so keen on the food. While I was forcing it down, I also had to contend with the kids eating. If you’ve never seen a second grade Japanese student eat, let me tell you, it is not good for the appetite.

Most of the kids were messing about amongst themselves, but the little girl sat right next to me had taken it upon herself to stare blankly at me, while eating extremely slowly.

When the kids finish, they have to wait for the bell to go again before cleaning time starts. This time is generally filled with small productive activities that can be worked on intermittently.

It was at this point that things began to go downhill.

Several of the kids fetched out recorders and began playing random notes as well as one tune repetitively.
A couple of boys next to me were reading through a book on what looked like graphics of mythological creatures. Fairly inappropriately drawn mythological creatures.
Silent Girl next to me had resumed her staring routine in full force now that she no longer had to break it up with eating.
The homeroom teacher, who up until then had been practicing his golf swing(??) decided to join in with the recorders. Joy. Moments later, Silent Girl hopped up looking inspired, and came back with her own recorder. I watched with badly concealed fear as she raised the Devil Whistle with purpose – and began to play one single note over and over. Right in my ear.
Meanwhile, other kids had started arguing loudly with each other, and one boy had gotten hold of a flag bigger than he was and started waving it like he was auditioning for Enjorlas in Les Mis.
I actually started laughing in despair at how awful it all was. Silent Girl’s single blasts on the recorder were becoming shrill and my fear for my eardrums was real.

Then, slowly, the classroom fan turned towards me, wafting someone’s fart directly at my face. And that was the point at which my soul left my body.

Non-Apology of a Terrible Role Model

I’ve apologised a few times for not updating regularly, so I’ve found a solution. I’m going to try and do more regular little snippet posts in-between my longer ones from now on. So, to start:

MS2: The other day I was assigned to eat lunch with the 1st graders. We were given sweet potato mochi (pictured) for dessert (a strange combo, but surprisingly not unpleasant). The thing about mochi is that you have to chew it for ages before you can swallow it, it’s a bit like some chewy sweets that you aren’t quite sure if they’re sweets or gum.

And so…I convinced the kid sat opposite me to eat the whole thing in one. She did.

It was way too much for her tiny face and she looked like an upset hamster for a concerning amount of time while she attempted to chew it.

I felt bad, but was also really proud that she accepted the challenge. I am a terrible adult.