I am not sure how it happened, but somehow in one week every bag was sewed, every last pencil and clothing article was labeled, and Theo was seen happily off to his first day in yōchien. His first day was on November 1st and the 3rd was a holiday, so he was only at kindergarten for 3 days last week. I think that the short week kept him from being too terribly overwhelmed by all of the changes.
|A typical lunch that I send with Theo|
It also happened that the 4th was a parent observation day which I was
strongly encouraged to attend. It was mostly the mothers who came, but I was happy to see that there were a few dads there as well. There were about 60 parents total and we stood around the courtyard watching the daily exercise and gymnastics routine that our kids do in the morning. It was kind of sad to observe Theo's confusion first hand as he had only been there for two days. He is far too independent to just follow the other children around placidly or stand there staring into space. He was constantly darting off at top speed making for the play structures, slides, and sandbox and having to be led back by a teacher. I could tell that he was extremely bored since he didn't know what the teachers were saying, the little rhymes the kids were chanting, or the steps to the exercise routines. They were also made to stand in lines waiting for their turn to do a somersault or walk a balance beam, and his attention span just is not long enough to patiently wait for 15 kids to do a roll or flip before him. Needless to say, there were many attempted escapes to the slides and swings. At one point during the exercise routine, Theo spotted me in the crowd of parents and ran over as fast as he could, burst into tears, and said "please, I don't want to exercise anymore! They keep making me and I'm soooooo tired!". At this point he crumpled into a heap in the dirt at my feet. It was really sad, and pretty embarrassing, but for his benefit this was after at least an hour and a half of really hectic high energy music, dancing, and stretching. I am sure that after a week or two of this he will develop a bit more stamina.
Next, the kids were allowed to go to their individual classrooms and change out of their exercise clothes, have a rigorous session of kanpu masatsu (乾布摩擦
) and then dress in clean uniforms. Every student has a long, narrow towel that they bring to school each day (yes, this is one more thing that I had to sew and label). They use this towel to do kanpu masatsu, which involves rubbing the towel vigorously over their bare skin to improve circulation. I am sure it is healthy for him, but he hadn't really figured out the drill on Friday and was mostly just waving his towel around and singing. Once everyone was dressed, the teacher proceeded to take attendance. Theo thought he had this one all figured out, since every time a name was called from the attendance list, he raised his hand high and shouted "hai!". Then the giant abacus and flashcards emerged and the kids wowed me with their math and reading skills. I was impressed by their ability to count to thirty in multiples of two and count backwards from sixty. They also knew way more kanji than me and could read a simple poem in hiragana and katakana. I really had no idea that 3 year olds could do all of this!
Poor Theo seemed very confused and bored at times, but I was surprised by how much he had actually picked up after 2 days. He was able to count with the others and knew a couple of the dance routines. He actually sat at his little table with the rest of the kids and seemed mildly attentive. The teachers are great with him and seem to be giving him lots of firm but kind guidance when he gets out of line. He has made a few little friends and even got a super cute, scrawling note from a little girl in the class. At the end of each day I have asked him if he wanted to go back in the morning and each time he enthusiastically answered yes, so he can't be minding all of the changes and stress too much. I am curious to see how much he will pick up in the next few months!
A note on his name: since "th" does not really exist in Japanese, his name translates into Shiodoru. Since we call him Theo at home, the teachers decided to call him Shio. I find this kind of funny because shio is the Japanese word for salt. He absolutely loves his new nickname, and now introduces himself as Shio-chan ("chan" is a diminutive, like saying "salt child") to almost everyone he meets!
And here is a gallery of the uniforms he wears to school:
This ambiguously gendered outfit is what he wears to school each morning. It is the exercise outfit.
Here is his exercise uniform with the sunhat. Each class has an appropriately colored hat to match their class name. Since Shio is in yuri, or lily, class he gets to wear an orange hat.
This is his normal uniform for the later part of the day and for special events. I am not really sure if both boys and girls wear the suspenders, but I am beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that it is only the girls who do...
Here is the full uniform with the jacket. Children are required to wear the little shorts even in the middle of winter. Thank goodness we no longer live in the land of skin exposure warnings and 10 minutes to frostbite or there would be a lot less Japanese children with legs!
Doesn't he look so cute? I'm sure he'll be in the swing of things very soon. Good luck, Shio-chan!
The blaring music, the exercise routine and the escapes to the playground remind me a lot of Ari. His teachers always used to complain to us that he was always leaving the class during morning exercise time to play by himself on the play structure. When we talked to him about it, he rolled his eyes and said that exercise time was boring. Obviously we agreed with him (not that we could let on!) Those Asian kindergartens really know how to pick (and then blare) horrible exercise music!
Haha! Yes, when I was there on Friday, they were dancing to a super amped up version of Brahms Hungarian Dances. It had a super fast techno beat in the background that would make anyone feel ridiculously anxious. When that ended, a techno Star Wars medley came on. I was trying really hard not to snicker when all 60 kids were exercising in unison to the Imperial March :)
I just found your blog, and it makes me glad that you are sharing this with the world! I looked at the about page and it made me even more happy. I'm majoring in biology and am always on the lookout for fungi, and learning Japanese in all the spare moments I have.
I look forward to seeing more! Thanks!
thanks for checking out our blog erly! Yay for biology! I really need to find some good English field guides for Japan, or get much better at my Japanese soon. There are tons of awesome plants, insects, and fungi that I have come across in the past few months and I am dying to know what they are. Are you planning on doing JET after you graduate?
The JET program has been in the plan all along, I want to tie everything together somehow. Right now I can only have basic conversations (luckily most Japanese I've met knew enough English to help me), and more and more frequently get the gist of something when I read... so a long way to go still! Blast those kanji!
If I find anything of interest as far as plant ID goes I'll give you a heads up :)
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