Saturday, June 30, 2012

Farewell Yochien Friends

The source of so much of what I learned about culture and life in Japan resulted from my children attending Kamakura Yochien preschool and kindergarten. Yochien Mamas spend a great deal of time together picking up and dropping off children, walking to and from the bus stop, attending meetings, participating in events, and organizing what is left of free time to have some fun together. What a magical time and place!

Raising children is a busy time in the life of every mother. I was privileged to learn from the Japanese mothers' approach and reflect on my own. At times, my instinct was the very opposite of theirs. They never said much about it, they seemed happy I was trying. I tried like the dickens, and often I felt like a barbarian in comparison, but it was the fun, the learning, and the acceptance that kept me going.

Nowadays I appreciate that I have time to pursue my interest in writing, photography, bookmaking, sewing, and cooking, but the connection to the other mamas at shogakko elementary school is less involved, less overlapping. The discovery of three yochien friends as classmates on the Moose's first day of shogakko elementary school meant that I had yochien mama friends there too.

The goodbyes are tumbling in as we hunker down for our final week in the neighborhood. Yesterday, we all took a bit of time in the afternoon to return to the park by the yochien for one last romp together. The teacher that taught both the Mule and the Moose came with her baby. We hadn't seen her since the Moose's graduation which was days after her baby's birth. The baby is more toddler now. I am happy to report her sensei teacher magic is still intact. All of the children were thrilled to see her and to play some games together.

A big piece of my heart went unspoken during these years because of the language barrier. Slowly though I learned to let go of the need to say as much, to let the laughs come, to bring what I could to the moment, to accept that sometimes you just have to be there, and that words are not the only way to communicate. I think these things simmered in me so long that it pushed me to finally begin what has become a passion for me, writing.  As I share the stories of daily life worthy, I hope, of further reflection, I realize that I am all the better for the journey we took together, words or no words.

Mate ne yochien friends!
Our farewell tunnel!
Yochien friends at the park
The Mule chasing her old Sensei with her little guy


  1. We just moved to Ikego and are interested in Kamakura Yochien but have not had luck finding out contact information. Any point in that direction would be greatly appreciated.

    1. You need a native speaker to call the yochien, make an appointment, and then go to the school with you. The yochien spots are sought after by locals and they do not have staff for translating or helping English speaking families. You will need someone who speaks Japanese to consistently help you if you choose this route. There are yochiens in Yokosuka with bilingual staff that support this kind of experience. Kamakura yochien did not have English speaking staff so you'll need to approach them with a translator. They interviewed us as well just like they do the Japanese families. Good Luck!


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