Culture · Kindergarten · Living in Japan

Japanese Kindergarten Adventures: Handmade Bags Part II

WELP! Here we are again ladies and gentlemen – and those who identify as neither. After another 6 hour day of sewing and play dating I am pleased to announce that all of the bags required for kindergarten have been made and I even have plenty of material left over for patches should any of the bags happen to get holes in them. Which, given the not-so-delicate nature that my son tends to handle most things, is entirely possible.

Let’s review the check-list:

  1. 通園連絡袋 (Kindergarten “contact” bag)
  2. 上履き袋 (bag for school shoes)
  3. お弁当袋 (bentou bag – bag for boxed lunch)
  4. 歯磨きセット入れ(bag for toothbrush set)
  5. 体操着袋 (gym bag)
  6. ハサミ袋(bag for scissors)

material for the remaining bags
The bags left to make today were deceptively difficult only because of the tedious nature sewing required. Not just sewing, but ironing as well to get hem lines lined up perfectly for the drawstring pulls. There was only one real misstep throughout the process, but we had a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment and were able to resolve it.

Thomas and friends were selected for the remaining bags and thankfully the material was not difficult to work with. Unlike the material used previously, this fabric was “standard” and not quilted – do NOT get the fabric mixed up unless you want all the other mothers and whoever to shun you.

So, six hours and NO finger pricks with pins later yielded the following:

(left to right) scissors bag, gym bag, toothbrush set bag, and bento bag
Why do schools require a scissors bag rather than keep them in boxes? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine and everyone I ask simply shrugs their shoulders and offers a simple, but vague, “that’s just the way things are.” I may have to do some digging as this is rather reminiscent of my asking people why a “green light” was referred to as a “blue light” in Japanese – spoiler alert, it has to do with the history of kanji in the country. So, when I find out something I will be sure to write about it.

The gym bag is pretty self-explanatory (it is used for his gym clothes and change of clothes.

Toothbrush set bag is a bit of a foreign concept to most as there is no requirement to brush your teeth at school, but this is something I did every day while I worked as an ALT.  After eating and cleaning up from lunch, everyone is required to take a moment to…brush their teeth. I still remember the first time I witnessed this on my first day working at elementary school and all I could do was sit there awkwardly while the ‘teeth brushing’ music played and me the only person in the entire school without a toothbrush to attempt to blend in.

Kindergarten provides lunch three of the five days kids go to school and the other two are bento days (although you can also opt to have lunch provided, especially if you are a working mom, and they assured me that even calling the day of will guarantee your child is fed. So this is a huge relief). I am going to try my best to make these lunches, although I cannot guarantee that they will always look lovely or cute – although I think this kindergarten may have a rule against overly fancy bentos like chara-ben (more on that some other time). Now, it may come as a shock to all of you, but his bento box is also blue and has trains on it. I know, I am floored as well.

the whole set

It was tough and just thinking about having to make all these things was stressful, but now that everything is made I am grateful that I did it and did not opt to just purchase ready made things or hire someone else to do it. When I first came to Japan 10 years ago as an exchange student, I promised myself when I came to Japan as an exchange student that I would not shy away from opportunities so explore Japanese culture and this was certainly an opportunity to do so. Now I feel ready to tackle the next big hurtle that is kindergarten: opening ceremony outfit shopping. Because, yes, there are specific things parents are apparently supposed to wear to these as well from the color of the bags to the style of shoes to the color of suits.

Japan, you are absolutely insane sometimes yet I time and time again find myself captivated by this insanity.

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