a merkypie in japan

Today was the last day of school and it began with a ceremony and ended on a very low key with the student body of roughly 64 kids returning to their classrooms.

I finally remembered what ceremonies in Japanese schools felt like, or at least at the middle school level — JROTC. When I was in High School, I spent 4 years in NJROTC. It’s a military program offered in High Schools across America for those interested in eventually joining the service. I had considered enlisting but then realized that was a stupid decision and only stuck in for the cool lunch perks, ability to wear a cool uniform every Wednesday, and shoot rifles in the school yard.

Every time there was a ceremony, either to congratulate a cadet on winning a competition or a rank promotion, it had that strict military precision.

Attention on Deck!
Parade Rest.

(insert awards here)

Fall out. 
Aye, aye, sir/m’am. 

In the Japanese schools it’s more like this,

Return to seats

(insert awards here)

Return to seats, dismiss each class.

Even the way they accept their awards has that military precision. Accept the award with both hands, raise it, take a step back, hold it down, then do an about face, bow, turn left, bow, about face, bow, turn right, bow, then leave the stage. Everything follows a detached order which is a stark 180 difference in how educational ceremonies are held in America. Not to say there’s no order, there obviously is, but the system is just different.The ceremony is different.

And that’s where cultures clash.

Anyway, half the students left home shortly after scarfing down their bentos. Those were the kids that opted out of joining clubs. The rest of the school, the 45 odd kids,  are outside practicing in their clubs. Schools officially over for the year but there’s still clubs to attend. It’s not much different than High School (sports teams practice all year round, marching band has a summer camp for routine training) but it’s really interesting to see on a Middle School level. I was in clubs in Jr. high but they stopped the moment the final bell of the year rang.

I also found out that teachers do not take vacation either. Unlike in America, even during a vacation, the teachers have to report back to school to plan (and maybe waste time). Teaching is seriously a 365 day job in this country.

The school year is finally over and Spring Break has begun. I wonder where I’ll trottle off to……