Culture · Culture Shock · Education · Friends · Jr. High School Education · Living in Japan · Teaching

Japanese Parties = Good Food

Forgive me all my readers (I am assuming there are more than just my parents reading this since my hit counter is now well over 400 at this point).  Things have been really busy around here recently due to the arrival of my mom to Japan.  This post will therefore be rather long and jump back a week or two.  Before getting into what chaos this new swine flu caused at Narita International Airport, I need to spend a little time talking about the farewell party that I participated in with my junior high school teaching staff.

Before the school year ended in March, I did not know whether I would continue to teach at the same schools or at new schools.  Thankfully, I returned to the same schools (minus one elementary school which brings my current school total to two instead of three) and was really excited for the first day of work to see a lot of familiar faces.  Unfortunately, when I arrived at the junior high for my first day, about half of the teacher’s room was new faces.  I had no idea that so many of the teachers would be leaving – I would have written them all cards.  In general, Japanese teachers also do not know if they will continue to teach at the same school each year.  The Japanese Board of Education likes to rotate teachers every so often as a means to prevent teachers from becoming too comfortable in any given school.  The time period for rotation varies and I am not sure if there is a real pattern or anything.  One of the teachers who left had been working here for about ten years, while another teacher had only been here for one year.  Not only are they usually unsure of where they will be teaching, but they are also left in the dark as to what grade they will teach and even if they will teach the same subject or not.  It is chaotic and doesn’t make much sense, but the system seems to work for them – I was going crazy because of the uncertainty.

Anyway, because teachers do not know whether or not they will be coming back, when the school year ends they are unsure if they are really saying an indefinite farewell or just a temporary two week break farewell.  To counteract this, Japanese schools have a farewell ceremony where the
teachers who left return to the school and give a short speech in front of all the students.  I was teaching at the elementary school when this ceremony happened, so I cannot provide any real details there.  Where I went instead was the farewell banquet at a local hotel.

After dressing up a little more than I usually do for work, I rode my bike to the Kawagoe Prince Hotel where I happened to run into one of the 3rd year teachers who had just left the school.  I was happy to see him again and we searched together for the room where our banquet was being held.  I was stupid and did not take any pictures of the décor but instead focused on the food. When we arrived, we were given a little program for the evening along with our table assignment.  The table assignments were essentially divided by class year, so I got to sit with the 2nd year teachers just like I had during the previous school year.  We had cute little place settings that looked like this:

My table setting at the farewell party.
My table setting at the farewell party.

Dinner was a course menu and there was no scary sea food this time.  The menu was actually more Western-style, which came as a surprise.  Just because I like taking pictures of food, here was the menu for the evening:

After we ate, there were some speeches given by the former vice principal (who is now retired and wishing he was still working) and the current vice principal.  After, the principal went up to the stage to present each teacher who left the school with some flowers and a certificate like thing.  The certificate was actually a speech made from the comments of other teachers and I think a few comments were from the students.  The principal had not read these individual speeches yet, so some of the comments were too funny for even her to keep a straight face.  I wish I had had the time to take pictures with all the teachers who left, but I did manage to get a picture with the English department.

we teach English ヾ(*・ω・)ノ゜+.゜★ィェィ
we teach English ヾ(*・ω・)ノ゜+.゜★ィェィ

(From left to right)Mr. Hoshino (3rd year teacher who is not at a different school), Ms. Misawa (2nd year teacher and currently the 3rd year teacher), me (the resident native English speaker), Mr. Motohashi (1st year teacher and current 2nd year teacher), and Mr. Takahashi (1st year teacher and now at a different school).

These teachers all have such different teaching styles and I really enjoyed working with all of them (and am glad I still get to work with some of them!). Mr. Hoshino was really laid back and never really had a set plan for what each lesson was going to look like.  He would usually enter the classroom and ask the students what the last thing they did was, and then move on from there. Ms. Misawa is really really organized so it is really easy to help her in classes because I know what to expect.  I sat next to her last year, but now we are on separate sides of the teacher’s room and it makes us both sad. We really liked sharing girly conversations when we both did not have classes.  Mr. Motohashi and Mr. Takahashi were both new teachers and only had about a 5 month’s start before I joined the teaching staff.  Mr.Motohashi was always more of the main teacher with Mr. Takahashi as an assistant.  Since all three of us were the youngest teachers, the kids responded to that and classes were always full of energy.

After dinner and speeches, it was time for the 2会 or the second party. The 3rd year teachers wanted to go and do something together, so the rest of us went to an izakaya (Japanese bar) for drinks and more food.  It was a great night of socialization and the teachers enjoying playing the
“What can and cannot Katherine eat?” game by ordering almost everything on the menu. We were probably there for about two hours before many people had to leave because if they did not there would be no more trains and no means for them to get home besides a very expensive taxi ride.  Some of us were still feeling like more socializing – who knew when or if we would ever be seeing each other again – so we went to Ms. Misawa’s apartment for some snacks and light drinks. this was called the 3rd party and some of the teachers were joking about having a 4th party of all night karaoke. I politely refused and left Ms. Misawa’s apartment around 1:30 am and did not get to sleep until around 2:30 because I was trying to stay awake until Jun came back from his part time job – I failed and fell asleep.

For something totally random, I was the “Foreigner of the Month” this month in the Kawagoe paper.  Here is a picture I took of the article.  It is kind of awkward now when I go to the supermarket and random people will come up and ask me, “Are you Katherine?!”

Me as the "Foreigner of the Month"
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