Happy pointless excuse to get drunk and pinch people!
Here’s a catchup post for you, mostly dealing with the recent graduation at the junior high school I teach at.
So, graduation. Very solemn, very sober. American graduations often involve shouting, whooping, bullhorns, and the occasional beachball. Japanese graduations? So quiet you could hear a bin drop down an insulated well a hundred feet deep. Junior high school is a Big Deal here, much bigger than in America. This time in one’s life, moreso than high school, is thought of as the best days of your life. Many of the most popular, romanticized anime/books/TV shows in Japan — Harry Potter, Naruto, etc — all deal with people 13-15 years old. These kids have been together basically since birth, and their graduation signals a breakup of that. While junior high schools are generally numerous enough to be fairly local, high schools often require the students to commute. Furthermore, because each high school is so different, there’s insane pressure for kids to get into a good one, which often means travel even further away. So, this was a last hurrah for my 3rd years.
The ceremony was pretty similar to American schools for the most part, with the exception of the aforementioned quiet. The 3rd years did get together to sing a song for us before leaving the auditorium. Many of them weren’t able to sing through their tears. It was pretty emotional.
Afterwards, while the 3rd years went back to their classrooms to clear out their desks and collect all their things, the rest of the school lined up outside, to give them a grand sendoff as they left the school. It was there I ended up snapping pictures of a lot of my 3rd year students. Here’s some of the ones I’ll miss the most:
- K-Chan. The special ed kid to end all special ed kids. This guy was famous throughout the entire town. People the next town over knew him. Incredibly friendly, talkative, energetic, but little sense of social graces. This was the guy who tried to steal my $10 target watch at the beginning of the school year. He would often come bolting down the hall towards me, excitedly yelling “JEISON SENSEI JEISON SENSEI JEISON SENSEI” and when he got to me, I’d ask, “What’s up?” and he’d say, “Tsukareta (I’m tired).” He’d point at random things on the street and say, “It’s truck?” and I’d say, “Yes, it’s a truck,” to which he’d reply, “That’s good!” or “That’s okay!” Half the gossip in the teachers’ lounge was about his latest antics. I’ll miss the kid.
- Buster Bluth. This guy was pretty shy, not very good at English, but surprisingly popular. I call him Buster Bluth on account of his tendency to mumble out bizarro sentences tangential to the subject at hand, and his inexplicable proclivity for giving people massages. There was an entire 15-second segment on the “Remember the 3 years you’ve had at Nagayama JHS” video devoted to pictures of him giving different people massages. Note that nobody actually asked for a massage. (for those of you missing the Buster Bluth reference, you really ought to watch Arrested Development)
- Kuboki!! This guy was the loudest, roudiest kid in my class. All the teachers thought he was a pain, but man was he fun. He was pretty bad at English, fell asleep in class, but would excitedly yammer on to me about all sorts of random stuff in broken English outside of class. He had this bizarre twitch where one of his eyes would always blink a lot, so he looked a bit disturbed, but he was always smiling, and yelling, and… generally being loud. At graduation, one of the speakers addressing the graduates was the head of the PTA, whose last name was… also Kuboki. Surprise surprise, it was this guy’s dad. The speech his dad gave was apparently nigh-incomprehensible to most of the Japanese people in the audience. It somehow fits perfectly.
- Team Nampa. These were the more popular 3rd year boys, two of them having led their teams in the Taiikusai (sports festival) way back when I first got here. Rowdy, but hard workers overall. They had the most amusing skit out of the entire grade, dealing with three guys picking up on two girls, who, the boys found out when they all got to the hotel room, were actually guys. Nampa means “skirt chaser.” The guy on the far right definitely personifies that. In the pass-around-the-story exercise I posted awhile back, pretty much all the nudity and sex was due to him.
- The dynamic duo. These two are crazy smart, best friends, live next to each other, and have the same birthday. They’re also probably the most interested in English out of all my students. Even now, after they’ve graduated, they’re still coming to school (or, soon, my apartment, it looks like) just to chat and hang out. Not necessarily to study English, although definitely for the practice. I tell them weird Hollywood stories. It’s fun.
- Teen Girl Squad! These three were always really sweet to me, particularly the one on the right. However, the one on the right also was the one who repeatedly tried to set me up with the cute music teacher… even though she was dating the hunky social studies teacher, who could crush me merely with the muscles in his eyebrows. So yeah, even though she tried to start shit, she was still pretty sweet, and I will miss her more than many other students.
- Goofballs Anonymous. These girls liked to goof around, and were more interested in their favorite band than studying, but they were great fun. I’m relatively sure one of them has/had a crush on me (largely gathered from the fact that she kept screaming “I LOVE YOU!” at me awhile back). At least they all still email me.
- Geek Troop. My good kids. I feel like I fit in this picture more than any other.
- This one I include just because I was acting like a loon at this point. I took a lot of pictures, not all of which I uploaded. I got goofier as time went on.
That’s the big news. Only two other things have happened of interest:
- I survived a 5-hour tea all-Japanese party with my Japanese tutor and her daughter. I think 2 hours of it were taken up by me explaining my family history (I had to draw a diagram). I only covered all the basic members and their relationships to each other, not any of the “how they met” or the vagaries of being born into fandom.
- Today, I came to my Elementary school’s 1st grade class to eat lunch, completely famished. So of course, as quickly as possible, one of the kids runs up to talk to me, planting his hand in my soup and inadvertently tossing my entire lunch on the floor. A very hungry 10 minutes later, I have about 70% as much food as I did before (big class, they didn’t have much to spare), and I begin to eat. I soon realize that they’ve sat me next to one of the special ed students, who incessantly calls me an “okama” (male transvestite) throughout lunch, insisting that I have an “okama beam” which will turn him gay. 6 years old, this kid.
So, yeah. I’ll miss Japan when I leave in August. But not all of it.