My apologies for the long wait on additional posts about my visit to Japan… I’ve been working on many un-submitted posts (long story)… After perusing them, I decided to start with the sixth grade graduation ceremony I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend.
This may sound like a strange thing to get excited about, but it was truly a captivating and special experience. I will try to convey how amazing and adorable these kids were. First, they each stood in front of everyone and speak from memory… in ENGLISH! They spoke of their hopes for junior high and for when they grew up. Many boys wanted to be baseball players, but overall there was a wonderful variety of career choices. My favoritist were the girl who hoped to be a veterinarian (I’m a die hard animal lover) and the boy who hoped to study linguistics and become a translator and ambassador so he could help bring the world together. After each child spoke, they walked up to receive their diploma.
Next random children proceeded to stand up and loudly say things in Japanese. I had no idea what was going on, but it was fascinating to watch. (Bikkuri explained this was a long speech; rather than have one student memorize it all, each and every student memorized a small part and they put it all together. What a wonderful concept!!!)
Following this an exchange began with the fifth graders across the gymnasium in Japanese. Mostly I didn’t understand, but it was still enthralling. Afterwards Bikkuri explained they were reminiscing about memorable moments from the school year. Finally, the fourth and fifth graders stated their well-wishes.
Songs were sung, officials made speeches, there was lots of clapping, and even confetti tossing. The memorization was (and still is) mind-boggling. Not only their speeches and their parts in the exchanges, but WHEN to say their parts. From what I could tell, not a single kid spoke out of turn, and they projected their voices. It was a very precise and beautiful ceremony.
The only “awkward” part about being at the school involved the slippers they provided for walking inside. My feet are kind of narrow so it was juuuuust a bit challenging to avoid launching “slipper missiles”. Each time I lost a slipper – every other step – I jumped to it on my still-slippered foot. The other English teacher noticed my struggles and mentioned it took him a couple months to achieve missile-free walking. Though I’m sure he was just trying to be kind, I felt a bit less foolish after his compliment.
I am grateful for the experience as they were apparently concerned about allowing some unknown foreigner to attend and Bikkuri had to get special permission to invite me. My friends were amused that I talked about a graduation with so much awe and excitement.