As the English teacher for Asahi Kindergarten I was required to attend their annual graduation. Everyone wears black as a sign that they are sad that the students are leaving the school for elementary school. It was a really good that I brought along my black dress; so I donned it and went to the ceremony. As soon as I got to the school I was ushered into the director's office (pretty swanky place) I sat in the room all by myself. Then he entered (the director that is) with a bunch of middle aged men in tow. We were served tea by the secretary who was very nicely dressed and did the whole Japanese subservient servicing tea thing. Then I sat, they all spoke Japanese and I was periodically asked some questions. After about twenty minutes it was time to go up to the auditorium.
I sat in VIP seating squished between two of the middle aged men I think that they are part owners or something. After a few moments the children (graduates) started walking in: Strangely all the boys walked in first and were seated in the front and the girls who walked in second were seated behind the boys .... little crazy eh? This sort of sexism wouldn't fly in Canada, but of course I am in Japan (a very developed country).
As the ceremony wore on I saw each little one walk up and get their diploma from the head teacher (boys first of course). What shocked me about this was the pure level of organization amongst the children, they must have been practicing for weeks, they all knew exactly where to stand such that they were exactly two meters apart awaiting to receive their diplomas. They also knew exactly when to get up from their seats so the line was always perfect, all without any coaching from their teachers.
They sang a bunch of super cute songs and the leader of the PTA gave a speech that was no less that fifteen minutes long while crying (all the mothers were crying). At this point I was on ... It was a really good thing I had been paying attention to the bowing procedure that went on before people gave a speech. I followed it to the letter and gave a very short speech that very few people in the audience understood it being in English, re followed the bowing procedures and sat down. After this; from deep in the depths of the back row five little girls clearly the prettiest at the kindergarten came forward with flowers for the teachers and .... everyone cried, I couldn't make my tear ducts work so I didn't.
Eventually the graduation was finished, I was escorted out first with the middle age men and given a a lovely parting gift of baked goods and a note. The note said that the baked goods were from, "a bakery of famous and good repute." I was just happy they were not from a, "bakery of ill repute." Some sort of evil brothel bakery.
I then went to the pool, my head still spinning from the kindergarten graduation. Graduation is a very big thing in Japan, some of our grade six students said they had been practicing for weeks for there graduation from elementary school. One of my students said hers was going to be three hours long..... I wonder what happens for University.... Now I cannot wait for the opening ceremony of Ashai Kindergarten on April 12, 2010 where I must wear light, bright colours and I fear everything will be repeated in reverse.