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another year

April 9, 2004


Well. A few weeks ago I decided to stay out here for another year, mainly because while one year has been enough to improve my Japanese and learn the very basics of scuba-diving, taiko-drumming, and sanshin playing, I’m not sure that any of it has stuck well enough that it wouldn’t slip away after a few months back in Britain. I think another year should be enough to actually put these things into practice, though, and make sure I’ve got something permanent out of being here. I’m going to assume, though, that after this year I’ll be going back to Britain. Not because I necessarily will, but because if I decide to stay a third year I don’t want it to be because I feel I didn’t do enough in my second. Besides, I’m already daydreaming about Norway, Hungary, Namibia and (as of this afternoon) Ghana…

Wednesday of this week was the start of a new term, and a new school year (they run from April to March in Japan), and in true Japanese style we started the term with not one but three opening ceremonies, back-to-back. A big difference between Britain and Japan is that here, people’s ceremony-tolerating threshold is extremely high. As the vice-principal announced the closure of the first ceremony – to welcome the new teachers – I thought “Wow. That was surprisingly bearable – only fifty minutes.” But then, without a pause, the Principal got up and announced the opening of the ‘starting the term ceremony’. Another forty-five minutes or so. Then a five-minute toilet break, before the ‘welcoming the new students’ ceremony started. This overlapped considerably in content with the initial ‘welcoming the new teachers’ ceremony, and it seemed to me that with a little forethought these two ceremonies could have been condensed into the one, general ‘welcome’ ceremony, which would probably have freed up at least half an hour of precious life, and necessitated singing the horrible, horrible school anthem only once. There is a bit in the anthem where the piano plays a jaunty descending major bassline that has surely been lifted from a novelty song of the 1950s, or a really bad country and western number. Horrible.

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