April 11, 2016 marked a huge turning point for my life here in Japan. Not just for me but my humble little family of three and it’s a wonder I made it through it all given the mountain of anxiety that kept piling up on top of me in the days leading up to kindergarten’s opening ceremony. And it seems like most of the stress I was putting on myself was of my own fabrication. Go figure.
One of the things I quickly learned while living in Japan is that there is a certain set of rules when it comes to ceremonies. Never give even numbered money as a gift at weddings. Do not confuse funeral envelopes for celebratory ones. Certain flowers are reserved solely for funerals and NOT as gifts for people upon their retirement. Yes, there are horribly embarrassing stories attached to all of these which is why I was determined NOT to wear the wrong thing to opening ceremony as there are certain colors reserved for certain events. So, I naturally turned to the internet and browsed various online shops for something appropriate seeing as going to local stores did nothing but send me into further panic as things were either sold out or they did not have options to suit my “American chest size.”
It was a stressful several hours browsing sites, but I eventually found a beige and white one piece dress with matching suit jacket that fit the bill. Having read in various places that black was reserved for graduations, I was thrilled that I was doing something right…only it seemed every other mother must have missed that memo as there was plenty of black at the opening ceremony. About as much beige as black really. Panic for nothing. C’est la vie.
Clothing stress aside, opening ceremony was a lot more laid back than I had expected it to be – and this is probably due to the fact that I am used to participating in Jr. high school ceremonies here in Japan because of my work.
The first thing that happened after checking in was going to see the classroom and putting away his school bags for the first time. Each child has their own shoe box outside of the classroom to leave their outdoor shoes in before slipping into their school ones and beside each child’s name is a unique animal picture to help them find their things. My son’s picture is a fish and, at first, he was upset it was not a penguin like someone else’s and insisted he get THAT one, but he eventually accepted the fish as appropriate. It just took reminding him that his favorite thing to do at the park is feed the fishies and we were good to go. Inside the classroom (pictured above) are little cubbies for each child to hang their backpack, school hat x 2, and their smock.
We hung around the classroom for a little bit and the two women assigned to be Yuri class’ homeroom teachers introduced themselves. Then it was time to move up to the main hall for the opening ceremony with the goal of all the soon-to-be kindergartners walking in a straight line with one another. Approximately two thirds of the class were okay with this idea while the other third cried and resisted. Guess which third my son belonged to?
While not the loudest crier, the whole ceremony was a bit overwhelming for Ryoma. Recently he had become a little shy when there are large numbers of people and thus clung to me the entire ceremony for the most part. Little chairs were set up in the front of the hall for all the kids to sit down and listen to the speeches and other presentations. Once again, about two thirds of the kids were perfectly capable of this – mine not among those although we did TRY. But about five minutes later and there was a wailing child being carried to me.
Opening ceremony itself consisted mostly of short speeches with a few songs thrown in between to try and keep the kids focused. Once the school staff were all introduced and closing remarks made, the kids all returned to their classroom where their homeroom teachers entertained them for about 15 minutes while the parents were meant to stay in the main hall to listen to another little speech – Ryoma was having none of that so they said I could go with him. Thankfully daddy was with us this day so he stayed behind to listen to the lecture…which was informing parents that they understood it could be hard seeing their child cry and not want to go to kindergarten to be away from mommy but that it was okay if they cried and they would be stronger people because of everything and to trust the school and the teachers to take care of their ‘precious treasures.’
All in all it was not nearly as stressful as I thought it would be and I can not be certain if that is because this particular school is quite laid back or because kindergarten opening ceremonies are just laid back in general. In either case, we made it. We are in kindergarten now and tomorrow starts full days at school which means mommy is on bento duty until school lunch starts in May!