Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reggae Show

Now, I know the words “Japan” and “Reggae” might not seem to mix but give this post a shot. Japan does indeed have a reggae scene and a few Buffalo Soldiers call Sado their home. I guess it’s an island thing. The show I went to was staged at a very nice hotel in the north of Sado. The room was small but so was the crowd. My friend and I were 2 of 12 for over an hour, but the crowd finally started to grow and the night ended up being pretty fun. The most amusing part of the first show was when the dj spliced some western pop into the reggae he was spinning. All of the dj’s music was western reggae, but these artists have no place in any reggae show: Backstreet Boys – Celine Dion – Enrique Iglesias– Dolly Parton. I really don’t have the vocabulary to fully explain my reaction so let’s move on. The latter shows included a few dancers and some Japanese rappers from the mainland. Most of them were pretty good, but I don’t think I’m Japanese enough or Jamaican enough to comment intelligently on the subject. My favorite was a big guy who called himself Large Rice. Despite his size, this Marley in the making could really move and rap reasonable well. Although you won’t find much reggae on my Ipod, this show was certainly worth cover charge.
Also, let me apologize for the lack of pictures. My camera was in my car, my car was at Charles’ place and Charles’s place was 30 minutes away. Problem!

Monday, March 22, 2010

End of an Era

The Japanese school year is in its last weeks and my schools are holding graduation ceremonies. I teach mostly elementary schools so it’s no big show by any means, but it’s not the show I wish to blog about today. 2 of my elementary schools are closing this year due to budget constraints and their extremely small size. I’ve heard talk that Sado’s government is set to close almost half of the island’s schools over the next 10 years due to such factors. These 2 schools have only 12 and 24 kids total from grades 1 -6. It is not hard to see why employing 9 staff members to teach 12 kids is a bit troubling to a budget committee, but I can’t help but lament the loss of these 100 + year old institutions. These schools pair the classes of 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th so they never risk having a class of 1. One of my schools has 1 1st grader and 1 2nd grader (that’s right, a class of 2!) so when the 2nd grader has to take 2nd year math, the 1st grader has another class separate from her. You could say this seems quite lonely, but think of the personal interaction. They are basically getting private tutoring and coming to know their teachers on a much deeper level than most students ever will. These kids know each teacher and each student intimately. They eat lunch in one room and clean the school together each day. Both of these schools were such happy places that almost seemed like large multigenerational homes. The 6th graders played with the 1st graders, the schools did group activities across grade levels, and they simply had a quaint atmosphere to them. The kids will probably be happier going to a larger school with more friends and more opportunities to interact, but something is being lost here. I wonder what kind of perspective is being lost as the modern world herds us to bigger cities with larger schools and bigger offices. I wonder how these kids will be different in the future thanks to the very personal nature of their primary education. Will they value personal interaction more? Will they wonder why some people only look inside their set group for friends? As these schools close, so does the opportunity to be a part of something very special and very personal. I’m just glad that all the kids and teachers seem to realize that.

Friday, March 5, 2010


As with almost anything that is found in both the US and Japan, school in Japan is almost totally different from school in the US as I experienced it. I recently attended a local elementary school graduation and found it to be a wonderful microcosm in which we can observer this truth.
Japan is a nation of groups. So much of Japanese culture revolves around and can be witnessed through defined social groups. As such, entering in to or exiting from such a group requires great ceremony. I will be focusing on one of the exiting ceremonies.
The ceremony started with the 6th graders, the most senior members of the group, being led in to the gym by the 1st graders, the youngest generation. The young helping the old. The 1st – 5th graders sat facing the 6th graders, their elders. The younger looking to the older as examples. The 6th grade performed the school song and the 5th grade performed the same song directly after they finished. Every other grade had prepared a musical skit to thank the 6th graders for their time at the school. Showing respect for senior members of a group. The 6th graders then thanked each grade below them with small gifts for each student. Expressing gratitude to younger group members for their assistance. Finally, the principal thanked the 6th graders and told them how wonderful the 5th grade performance was. You may be asking yourself, “Why not tell the 6th graders how well they did”. The answer lies in the fact that it was the 6th graders’ job to teach the 5th grade this performance as they had done it last year for the 6th grade class above them. By recognizing that the 5th graders’ had performed well the principle was saying that the 6th graders had obviously done their job well. The old shepherding the young. I hope that my readers can enjoy this little slice of Japanese culture. Should any of my old professors be reading this, I only ask that you not email me grades.

More Drawings from the Kids

Through a Child’s Eyes

The budding young artists at one of the local kindergartens provided the following images. To express their gratitude for my monthly English lessons they presented me with a small book of personal messages and portraits. I have to say, it was the sweetest thing I have ever seen.