Festival Season

July 14, 2010 - Goshogawara, Japan


It’s summer yet again – the third summer I’m seeing here, but thankfully not the last.  While teachers in the US are able to take a long vacation from school during summer, teachers in Japan work just as hard as they do during the rest of the year.  The school year in Japan starts in April and ends in March with three 3-week long vacations in winter, spring, and summer.  Right now is actually one of the busiest times as our school festival is coming up this weekend.  The school festival is an event to see.  Each 1st and 2nd year homeroom puts together some sort of activity or show (dancing, singing, a haunted house, etc.) while the 3rd years sell food.  The clubs do something as well.  My international club will display posters about food and music from around the world, Japanese “English” that’s not actually English, Dream Catchers (visitors will get to make these too), and Korea.  (Many Japanese students love Korean music and TV shows.)  We’ll also be playing music and giving out snacks from around the world.  In the past year, my English club has miraculously grown from 3 members who graduated to around 25.  Unfortunately, most of those members are 3rd year students who will have to concentrate on getting into universities and stop going to meetings after the school festival, but the rest are 1st year students.  Needless to say, I’m very happy and excited with the group we have this year. 


Shortly after the school festival, our school will take its 3 week summer “vacation.”  During that time, students will come to school each day to take special lessons and participate in their club activities.  They’ll get to leave earlier (clubs finish at 3 or 4 instead of 6 or 7), but they still have to work hard.  There’s only one week during this time where students are truly off.  Teachers also go to school at this time even though only about half must teach special lessons.  I’m not one of those teachers, so if you email me, I’ll be sure to respond quickly! 


During that time, my school will be participating in the annual Tachinebuta festival.  The first year I was here, I danced somewhat awkwardly through the streets with the students I had just met – many of whom I have since become very close with.  Last year, I played the flute.  This year, I decided to learn how to play the big taiko drum, the smaller taiko that you wear by slinging a strap around your neck, and the small hand-held cymbals.  I’ll be participating each night – 3 times with my school and twice with another group in town that many of my foreign friends have joined – mostly playing the flute and big taiko.  I never seem to get sick of the song even though I’ve played it hundreds of times and heard it thousands.  Playing with my students is especially fun. 


While the end of month and the beginning of August promise to be fun in many ways, it’ll also be a hard month.  As many of you know, I was supposed to visit the U.S. in August for Jen and Gus’s wedding.  Unfortunately, flights were well over $2000 during this time.  During the next month, most of my closest friends will be leaving too.  The friends I’ve seen the most and have been closest with during the past two years will be moving on, and it will probably seem a bit lonely here for a while.  I’ve often found that in general, I’ve been able to get closer with people more easily when moving abroad, so those I met when first coming here will be hard to say goodbye to.  Of course, no one likes goodbyes, especially when these goodbyes entail seeing your friends move all over the world, so our solution to this is to see as much of each other as possible during the next few weeks.  In fact, during her last week here, a very good friend of mine will be staying with me while her successor moves into her old apartment.


There’s so much more I could say, but I don’t want to make this too long for everyone to read!  I will say though, that I’m traveling to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the rest of Kyushu (the southern-most main island of Japan) in mid-August.  Please let me know how you all are doing! 


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