Happy Graduation, Kids!

It’s been a hectic past couple of weeks! I’ve had visitors in town, went on a long-weekend snowboarding trip, moved apartments, gone to dinners and parties… and somehow between all that, I also fit in going to work :-P With spring break coming up, I’m definitely looking forward to some down time!

We’ve come to the end of the school year in Japan. All regular classes are finished, and the students are now doing their final exams – which means lots of marking to look forward to! I always feel that third (final) term has a different mood than the other two terms. It’s only 7 weeks long, and is therefore a bit rushed as we try to cram as much knowledge into our students as we can! So much to learn, so little time! The school also becomes a bit quieter because the seniors no longer have classes. They are off studying in preparation for university, or getting ready to make the big move away from the care of teachers and the safety of high school. I distinctly remember that feeling of eagerness when I finished high school, and am so excited for them and their future! Some of them have told me their dreams are to become engineers, doctors, singers, pilots, and baseball players! While others still don’t really know what they want to do. That’s the beauty of life – you can never really plan the future anyway! I’ve changed my mind about what job I want to do many times, and there is still lots I want to try before settling into one career. The important thing is to make good choices for you and have fun along the way, right!?

On Sunday, the seniors had their graduation ceremony. The auditorium was packed with parents of the 250-odd students. The fathers wore suits while some mothers wore beautiful kimonos. The students don’t get a graduation cap or anything, but each receive a certificate from the principal on stage. It took over an hour to get through all of them! They decided to put a live video camera on the big screen to show the students’ faces to the audience. It made for some cheeky ‘camera loving’ which had their classmates cheering and the audience in tears! Luckily the principal, who’s usually pretty stern, didn’t seem to mind. After all the certificates were given out, there was a long procession of speeches and A LOT of synchronised bowing! Their graduation song, which had all the parents pulling out their video cameras, was a popular Japanese graduation and choir song called “Tabidachi no hi ni”. It’s a beautiful song about going off into the future and reaching for your dreams. Finally, the ceremony was wrapped up with a cute and fun video presentation of the highlights from the students’ school trips and events over the past few years. It’s crazy to think how young and innocent they were not that long ago!!

Congratulations and good luck, kids! May your future be a great adventure!

HS graduation

Celebration Time!

Wow, it’s March tomorrow! It is crazy how fast time flies! This month signifies the end of many things in Japan, such as the fiscal year and school year. In March, the weather starts to get warmer, and people become more relaxed as the year winds down and they can start to look forward to the new working year.

Tomorrow, the graduation ceremony for the high school seniors will be held. 2014 also marks 10 years since I graduated high school. Pretty insane! I can still remember the feeling of excitement of finishing school and moving out of home! Although it’s not common for Japanese teenagers to move out of home after high school or even university, unless they get married, I know the students must be feeling such a sense of relief and accomplishment right now. Kids in Japan do an incredible amount of study so that they can pass the arduous university entrance tests. Their future paths have been decided for now, but the world truly is their oyster!  I wish them all the best of luck!! If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 10 years, it’s that you should never give up on your dreams – ‘hope’ drives us and pushes us to do our best. You might have hope that you’ll get a certain opportunity, find a better job, meet a special someone; whatever it is, so long as you keep the dream alive, it will come to fruition, albeit not always when you want it to happen! 

As is tradition in Japan, parents often show their appreciation for teachers through gifts. These pictures are of some special ‘thank you’ presents that the graduates’ parents organized for all the teachers. Rosé wine and manju (red bean paste sweets) with the school emblem. So lovely! The manju are red (pink) and white for a reason… These are the colours of celebration in Japan. Both at the graduation and opening ceremony, big red and white banners are put up in the school. Other places you can see red and white are at weddings, the New Year’s Eve TV music show called Kohaku (lit. red and white), and of course the Japanese flag!