Martin In Japan

Our Man In Japan

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nonde, nonde nonde!

In Japan, as back home in the UK, if there’s something worth celebrating, then there’s something worth celebrating with a drink or two. So with all these graduation ceremonies taking place, then it follows that we have graduation enkais.

I’m a big fan of enkais. I’d like to say the main reason I like enkais is that it’s a great chance to meet other teachers and practice my Japanese, but I’m sure deep-down I’m also swayed by the nomihodai. Anyways, since I got back from Thailand I’ve had three enkais, one for each of my schools that had graduation ceremonies.

The first was at Rapporto. We had an opening speech and then speeches from the homeroom teachers of the new graduates. After, I got talking to a lot of the other teachers and found a couple that liked snowboarding so we chatted about our favourite ski-slopes. I also managed to have a decent conversation with the teacher that annoyed me at the last enkai. At the last enkai, this teacher was insistant on practising his English on me, to the point where he would ignore anything I said in Japanese. The trouble was, he was so focused on what he would say in English next, so he never listened to what I said. Not so much a dialogue, more a monologue from him, and a monologue that ended up with him becoming very angry about the US/UK invasion of Iraq and giving me a long accusing stare as if I was personally responsible! But at this enkai, he was a lot calmer and actually listened to what I had to say and we had a nice conversation about the New Year’s card I sent to the teachers. For the closing ceremony, all the teacher made a big circle, hands on shoulders, and swayed as they sang the school anthem.

The ni-ji kai, or second party, was at Sabbath. I come hear quite a lot and had Keiko’s and David’s birthday parties here so I know the owner quite well, so I said ‘Hi!’ to him as we came in. I think the teachers must have rung an order ahead because we had snacks arriving for use soon aver we where seated. I chatted with another set of teachers and told them about why I like Japan. We’d somehow moved from beer and sake onto wine, and with the mix of drinks I was starting to feel a little worse for wear. So I turned down the offer of a san-ji kai (third party) and went home.

The second enkai was at a place run by one of my student’s families. It was strange to see her sat watching TV as the teachers went into the enkai room. This place was a little far from my apartment so I needed drive home after and couldn’t drink. This was my first sober enkai, but it was just as much fun and the “Eh? Nomanai?” (What? You’re not drinking?”) reaction from my teachers was quite amusing! I was sat next to a teacher that had left last year and we spent the time catching up on what had happened during the year. In the middle of the enkai, letters from the graduates were read to the third-year homeroom teachers, after which the homeroom teachers gave a speech. We drank a little more, and I did the rounds with the drinks and served wine to the school governers. They where really surprised that I could speak to them in Japanese. At the very end, we had an interesting closing ceremony. The teacher made a circle and sang the school anthem. After that, each of the homeroom teachers were picked up and thrown in the air! Then we made a tunnel for the homeroom teachers to walk through as they left the enkai room. There was a ni-ji kai, but I decided to not to go and gave a lift to a teacher back to Tokamachi.

The third enkai was last night for one of my visit schools. With the recent heavy snow, the traffic was very slow so I was late fr the start of the enkai, but everyone assured me it was okay even if I did keep apologising. It was great to find two teachers who left last month return for this enkai, and an even bigger surprise to find out that one of them will be teaching with me at this school in April. So, we drank and we eat and we chatted. The enkai closed with ‘ippon’ or ‘One Clap’, but the teacher leading it went too early before the rest of use was ready. Everyone started laughing and I though that the leading teacher messed it up on purpose as a joke. I found out at the ni-ji kai that he was serious and genuinely made a mistake, so I felt a bit sorry for him.

The ni-ji kai was at Hanada, one of the newer sushi places in Tokamachi. The owners did have a shop on Honcho, but the building because unsafe after the earthquake and they had to close. This new shop is close to Tokamachi station. The sushi we ordered was amazing, easily some of the best sushi I’ve had in Japan. Some of the other teachers cried out “Umai!” (“fantastic!”), just like the celebraties do on TV food programs, so I guess they liked it too. I think I’ll have to come back to this place.

So I guess that’s enkai season over for now. Actually, there will probably be another round of enkais for the new school year in April, as well as enkais for teachers who are changing schools. But until then, I’ll brush up on some more phrases I can use on the teachers!

Graduation Time

The end of the year is looming, students will take / have taken exams, and the school halls are decorated with red and white banners. It can only mean the graduation time is upon us again.

I teach at three senior high schools which means I get to attend three different ceremonies (my JHS doesn’t have graduation this year). Unfortunately, I had to miss one of the ceremonies because it took place on a day when I don’t visit that school. But the third years for that school had written goodbye notes to me the week before, so I wrote replies and asked a teacher to pass them on.The other two ceremonies were quite similar to each other.

The halls are decorated with a red and white striped banner that runs around all the walls. At the back of the stage is the Japan National flag and the school emblem flag. In front is a table where the principal and other speakers will make speeches. On the right of the table is another school flag, on the left is the school bonsai tree. There are three banks of seating: at the front sit the graduating students, in the middle are the other students and at the back are seats for parents. Another bank of seats on the left are reserved for guests; school governers, local figureheads, ex-teachers etc. The teachers of the school sit on the right. The school band sit in the gallery at the back ready to play the National Anthem and School Anthem.

The students are seated, then the teachers, parents and guests. Then some music plays (something classical or an orchestra version of ‘Let It Be’, depending on the school) and the graduating students file in class be class as everyone applaudes. When all the graduating students have been seated, the ceremony officially opens and everyone stands and sings the National Anthem.

The principal goes on stage behind his table, then the ‘roll of honor’ is read out, class by class, by each homeroom teacher. Students shout ‘Hai!’ and stand when their name is read. When the whole class has been read out, a representative goes up on stage to the principal. They bow at each other and the principal presents the graduation certificates to the representative. More bowing and the representative takes the certificates to the homeroom teacher, then returns to his seat. This is done for each class, and at the end everyone applauds.

Then the school Anthem is sung, again everyone stands and sings. Then there are speeches from the Principal and one of the Governers. The new student presidaent also makes a speech about the good job the previous president did and how the new president will try their best to do well too.

Then more classical music is played and the graduates file out class by class as everyone applauds. The this point the teachers gather around the exit and shake hands with some of the students (I was dead-chuffed when one lad singled me out and shook my hand!). And then that’s the ceremony over.

While the graduates have one final homeroom session, other students, teachers and parents gather outside the classes waiting for them to finish. I went across to join them to give my congratulations and to have my photo take with my now-graduated students (which I can’t post here, sorry).

And that’s it. I probably will not see the majority of these students again, which is quite upsetting but unavoidable. A lot of students are travelling away from Tokamachi and Tsunan to study in the big cities so I wish them all the best of luck!

As for myself and the teachers they leave behind, well, we have a chance to drown our sorrows at the Graduation enkai!

Quick Catch-up

It’s been a busy couple of months, so busy that I haven’t been updating my blog. So as a quick review, heres what I’ve been up to:

  • 19th to 21st Jan - Head to Hakuba for “Erik and Martin’s Big Birthday Bonanza 2007”. Basically, snowboarding in Hakuba and getting drunk at Reggae Snow Splash.
  • 27th to 28th Jan - Finish preparation for Seminar Workshop
  • 30th Jan - Present workshop at ALT Mid-Year Seminar (download the slides)
  • 31st Jan - 10th Feb - Andy and Sarah come to visit. Teach them how to snowboard and show them Tokamachi and Tokyo
  • 16th Feb - Join JHS students at New Greenpia Tsunan
  • 17th Feb - Tokamachi Snow Festival.
  • 18th Feb - PNG Play “Shohei and the Okashi Factory”
  • 20th Feb - Pancake Party
  • 23rd Feb to 2nd Mar - Week in Thailand to meet Sharon and Rebecca
  • 3rd Mar - Graduation and Enkai
  • 5th Mar - Invite to teacher’s house
  • 7th Mar - Graduation and Enkai
  • 10th Mar - Boardercross Training Camp
  • 11th Mar - Boardercross Competition
  • 12th Mar - Enkai

I’ll go back over some of these and fill you in on the details or post photos.

**Snow Blog**

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