Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Opening Ceremony for First Grade

The Moose duded up for the first day of shogakko

Getting There

It took three flights, two crazy kids, and one sleep deprived mama, but we returned home in time for the  opening ceremony of ichi nensei first grade at Dai Ichi Shogakko.

The Opening Ceremony

It started with the song "Welcome Friends" "Tomodachi"by the incoming second graders including colored mittens, waves of hands, and somewhere in there, the big sister of our little guy. There were words from a representative of the sixth grade class, the principal- who was the only person wearing shoes while everyone else wore slippers, and introductions of key personnel such as the school nurse, kitchen manager, and PTA representatives. Letters were read from the various yochiens kindergartens and hoikens the children had attended. The children squirmed in their seats and swung their feet to pass the time. The Moose was nervous but beyond a few attempts at comedy (in a crowded assembly he goes for a laugh), he did great.

I loved the swinging wabukees

Meet the Teacher

Finally, the teacher for each class was announced. At last he has a classmate his size, a male teacher of whom his sister has warned can be scary when "the boys get crazy" as he takes the kid outside in the hall to talk (I loved that), and the "randoseru magic" happened again- the Moose carried the backpack to and from school with nary a complaint. We'll see how long it last before a fairy dust infusion is needed.

We went to the classroom where the kids found their name on their desk and the teacher spoke a few words. Ootake Sensei taught yochien for nine years before going on to teach first grade. A good friend of the Moose had liked Ootake Sensei last year because he plays ball with the kids at recess. I made a point of letting the Moose know that the sensei had his valued friend's stamp of approval. The sensei's words of wisdom for the first day of school to children and parents? A basic translation, "The change from yochien to shogakko is a big change in life. The most important thing is playing and working with each other."

Ootake Sensei, the Moose's first grade teacher
Say prayers for the Moose as this is a huge transition for him, and he does not tolerate change well. I will be keeping my fingers crossed. The Mule matured so much last year- there is a lot of growth and independence that evolves in this first year at shogakko.

Mama has a pile of papers I can't read, two school schedules (each grade's is different), and in many ways less stress about being a shogakko mama since I managed to fumble through this last year. I emailed the translator, my friend stopped by to help, and another will tomorrow. Having a few more mama friends at shogakko feels nice too.


  1. When my daughter was in Japan in 2009-10 she wanted to put her daughter in preschool and was told that it was impossible for an American to go to Japanese schools. Maybe it was because her husband was in the navy and they were a few miles from the base.

  2. My husband was in the Navy as well and enrollment into yochien (Japanese preschool) was not a given. It was even more of a challenge to get them into shogakko (Japanese elementary school)-_ read this blog entry for a bit more detail http://considerthethought.blogspot.com/2012/06/bridge.html

    In Japan's defense, they are under no obligation to educate American children under the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) as that is the obligation of the United States government for the military families assigned overseas. After five years, I also realized that the cultural gap for mothers is huge! The kiddos are flexible, but the parents, particularly the mothers, have to be willing to embrace the Japanese ways. Some of the American military bases are in areas where the yochien Japanese preschools market to the Americans and so have English speaking contacts at the school, but these are usually near the base. This was not my experience, but hard as it was, I remain grateful to all who helped make it happen, day after day, again and again. I think Americans also don't realize the kind of time commitment the typical Japanese mother puts into yochien-- it could be another factor in a school not wanting too many foreigners that may not hold up to the work load. I was flabbergasted by the staggering amount of time I was expected to spend on yochien stuff at home, on the weekends, and on school days. It is not for the faint of heart. Truth is however school works out, it is usually for the best as it is what you or your kiddos did, so it all turns out right just in the doing!


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