Monday, March 3, 2014


The end of the academic year is drawing to a close here at Nicchu**. Teachers are tying up loose ends in their lessons, students are studying hard for the proficiency tests this week, and final preparations for the graduation ceremony on Friday is underway.

For those wondering why middle school graduation is such a big deal, Japan's mandatory education only extends through middle school. After that, they can either enter the work force or advance to high school. Moreover, anyone wishing to entire a high school must pass the entrance exam for that particular school so those applying to multiple schools must take multiple tests. For more prestigious schools, there may even be an interview involved. The stress and exam fees can really pile up. And once they graduate high school, the cycle starts over as they either enter the workforce or start taking exams for universities they want to get into. At either academic level, hopefuls that fail the exams become a "ronin" (literally a samurai without a master) for the year and try again the following year.

But all the stress and brain-hurt is done with and now my third-years can sit back and look forward to Friday morning. Well, besides practicing for the ceremony up to two hours a day. Starting last Thursday, all students and teachers with homerooms donned their jackets and congregated in the freezing gym to practice for the graduation ceremony during the last two hours of the day. One hour is spent on entering/leaving, sitting/standing, and bowing. They even make the first and second-year students applaude as the third-years and their teachers leave (which can take a loooong time and they do it more than once). The second hour is spent practicing the school song with the music teacher. They practice and sing it for the opening and closing ceremonies each semester.

Today, the head of the English department and I had our last lesson with our graduating third-year students. Last week, he asked me to write down two of my favorite songs so he could type up the lyrics for the students and he provided his favorite song. After we played those during class we ended playing a couple others and what we ended up with was a kind of graduation soundtrack for them.
I thought it would be fun to share it here:

The Nikaho Graduation Class of 2014 Playlist

-We Are the World, various artists

-Time Stand Still, Rush

-Perfect, Pink **yeah, I hate censored versions, but it's middle school...

-Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Green Day

-卒業、そして未来へ, MONKEYMAJIK **"Graduation, then on to the future"

And that concludes our graduation playlist. We tried to find songs that had a good message for them and I feel we did a great job. They may not of understood all of it (especially Rush considering how old and abstract the song is), but I hope they got something out of it and will look into some of the lyrics later. I wasn't able to get to know them well, but a part of me is still a bit sad to see them go. At least, from what I can tell from the happy and looks on their faces that they're off to a good future no matter where it takes them.

**Japanese Mini-Lesson!
The words for elementary, middle, and high school are 小学校 (shogakko), 中学校 (chugakko), and 高校 (koko). As you can see, the kanji that differentiates between the three is the first one. 小 means "small", 中 means "middle", and 高 means "high" or "tall". The remaining kanji 学校 or just 校 simply mean "school". However, since 仁賀保中学校 (Nikaho Chugakko) is a bit of a mouthful, people generally like to abbreviate it down to 仁中 (Nicchu). Similarily, my elementary school, 平沢小学校 (Hirasawa Shogakko) is usually shortened down to 平沢小 (Hirasawasho).

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