March is the end of the school year here in Japan so for some of the students I have been teaching at the preschools will be moving on and upwards to begin elementary school as an “ichinensei” (first year student). This means that I will not be teaching them anymore, therefore the last couple of weeks we have been teaching their final lessons with us. Our final lesson at Fudoka preschool was really amusing as we teach the same class every week, thus they know us pretty well and vice versa. They are a great bunch of kids and love to have fun with us all the time and it is a real shame that I will not be teaching them anymore. We had a relaxed lesson mainly just playing games and messing about. Afterwards Teru gave them a little speech trying to get them to encourage their parents to send them to Intersect SFL, proceeded by a mini graduation ceremony giving each kid a congratulatory certificate in “English excellence!”. Then it was their turn to present us with a little thank you performance. First, we were presented each with a paper origami medal, which was hung over necks by one of the students with all the glory of any other medal. Then, everyone lined up on a stage while me and Teru were seated in one of those tiny kiddies chair, you can imagine how big that made me seem. Suddenly they broke out in song, all in unison and with such enthusiasm. It was quite touching as they had obviously put a lot of practice into it. From what I understood they were singing about change of season, represented by the cherry tree blossoming, which by brings the change of life in school. Although, it was a bit much for some, who were sobbing while singing. It almost got me going, as I do not think anyone has sung me a song before. Afterwards we got some pictures and said our final goodbyes, mostly consisting of the kids climbing all over me and Teru.
On the Friday of that week we had been invited to the graduation ceremony for Kuki Kindergarten, the other bigger school we teach at. I had to go all dressed up to make a good appearance for Intersect SFL and as it was a real deal sort of graduation. I wore the suit I wore for my graduation. It is quite funny as in Japan the have an official graduation ceremony for finishing every step of education and it felt really surreal attending such a ceremony for children only aged 6. There were members of the town council, PTA and supposedly the mayor was there too. Again I witnessed a well practiced performance from all the children, who sang to their hearts content. What was most amusing was the pianist’s command over the children, a quick blast of one chord and everyone stood up in unison, another and they sat down with up most precision. After a song they were called up on stage to collect their certificate and bow to the headmaster and then the audience. All the speeches followed this, one was from this women that could barely hold herself together and spent at least 2 or 3 three minutes crying on stage, another from this man that had been asleep on stage throughout the whole ceremony, awoke suddenly, made a quick speech, then when straight back to sleep. Teru and I had to make a quick speech, well mainly Teru, but I still made my little contribution saying “see you all in England!”. More songs followed accompanied by more crying women and even some students. Once it was over I had to get some official photos done for the yearbook and was given a sushi bento box and “manjuu”, traditional Japanese sweet bun.
Later I headed into Tokyo to meet up with a sister of a friend from university. Coincidentally I had met the person she was staying with in Japan a couple of weekends ago. We met up in Odaiba, an island area of Tokyo. It is quite a new development and interestingly the whole island is made up of recycled refuse. It is quite strange place but it does have some charm, especially the view at night of the Rainbow bridge with Tokyo’s city scape in the background, there is even a miniature stature of liberty there. Although once off the beach everything screams man made and is all a bit superficial. For example we went to this shopping centre, which had its complete interior modeled like an Italian renaissance city, which was quite impressive but also a little tacky. The ceiling mimicked the sky and changed colour softly as time passed. Inside we went to “church square” and found loads of people gathered brandishing glow-sticks looking restless. It just so happened that “Berryz工房” a Japanese girl band was about to make an appearance. This was extremely hilarious to catch some live J-pop with Japanese people, mainly men, going mental waving their glow-sticks and screaming with excitement. After enjoying as much as we could handled we headed back into central Tokyo. We went our separate ways as the girls were feeling a bit shattered. So I headed to a friends bar as she said there was this interesting night going on, which basically consisted of a famous transsexual, Amanda Lepore, turning up and doing some kind of performance. I can only say that I have never been to a night such like that before. Extravagantly dressed guys, girls, guys dressed as girls and girls dress as guys strutted about. I got talking to this guy called “Jasmine” for a bit who told me that his day job is pretty much just to dress up as a women and walk around. When Amanda turn up everyone went mental and was pushing to get near her. She jumped up on stage and was barely visible behind the sea of people trying to take pictures. She sang us some very bad out of tune songs while prowling around on stage in between blank manikins. Then suddenly she whipped of her clothes revealing her plastic exterior and strutted around some more to the joy of the crowd. It was up there with some of the strangest things I have seen in my life. After a short performance she made a hasty exit tailed by her many adoring fans. Despite it being a different night it was nonetheless pretty fun as I met some real characters and my friend was being very generous with the drinks behind the bar. I finished off that fun weekend on Sunday by attending the lively St. Patrick’s parade between, Harajuku and Shibuya in Tokyo, which was impressively big for a country I would in no way associate with Ireland.