Monday, November 2, 2009

Elementary School Entrance Ceremony

Starting school is a big deal in Japan! All the little six-year old first graders dress up in their finest to attend a special opening ceremony, then their parents go with them to see their classroom for the first time, meet their teacher and get some of their school supplies.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ball Toss

Four Teams throwing soft balls up into a basket.

The basket

Winner is scored by all teams counting together as they throw balls from the basket. Whoever is left counting wins! Listen to the Japanese numbers, I missed one, so it starts from two, 'ni'.


All the kids got together into two mixed-age teams (not much choice in this tiny school though!) for a variety relay:

Balancing a ball between two posts

Big kids pulling a little kid on a tyre.

double skipping.

Ever tried a three-legged race? This is several steps up - six kids coordinating their steps. Actually this kind of race is a really big deal in Japan. They have prefectural champions then the best teams go on to the nationals. The teams are bigger, about twenty kids. They work really hard and there's usually a documentary on TV about one team or another and how hard they worked.

Parents' Relay:
This is also a kind of varitey relay, 'unmei' or 'fate' relay. Instead of just running, they run to an envlope on the ground, placed randomly, and they have to open it and do what it says inside. Things like 'find two old men and run with them' or 'find a giant ball and run with it'. It means that it's just pure luck whether you win or not! This picture show two who got 'piggy-back a kid' as their fate.


The kids tying on their festival coats, or 'hapi' for their dance:


This is a traditional community group dance. It's origin is in the Obon festival, the Japanese festival of the dead. On this day, the deceased ancestors are said to return home to the 'butsudan' or Buddhist altar each family has in their home. There are lanterns set up to guide them home, and the dancing also helps to guide them home. But sometimes they do the dancing on other occasions too, such as School Sports Days!

A close-up of the ladies' hapi coats - pink with cherry blossoms. The writing says 'Koge-machi' the name of the town.

Video of the dancing:

Ball relay and Lunch

Tug-of-War ahd Gateball relay

Officials and things

Kids' Tents

Welcome to Nishi-Tomoeda Shogakko

Friday, September 11, 2009

Welcome to Hokubu Shogakko!

'Shogakko' is the Japanese word for Elementary, or Primary School. Ours is called 'Hokubu', which means 'Northern'. Like in New Zealand, most schools are named after their area. There are several schools in our small city of Nakatsu*, this one is in the north part of town, so it's called Northern Primary School!

Looking at a Japanese Primary School from the outside, there are two big difference:

1. They are usually two or three storeys high. This is because there is less space in Japan. Japan is about the same size as New Zealand, but 120,000,000 people live here! Japan's islands are volcanic and mountainous, but most people live on the flat land by the sea, making it even more crowded.

2. There's no grass! The climate in Japan is very different from that in New Zealand. The summer here is long and hot, and the soil is dryer. So, it's much harder to grow grass. Almost all schools have no grass, just dirt playgrounds. Kids play all their sports on the dirt, including baseball and soccer.

This is the South Wing. The Library is in here, on the second floor.

The three main wings are in the shape of a 'C'. At a right angle to the South Wing is the Hall. (You can see the South Wing on the right) All Primary Schools in Japan have a great big Hall like this, they use it for indoor sports, concerts, festivals, games and ceremonies.

Another view of the Hall from the north, with a corner of the South Wing.

The North Wing, where all the classrooms are.

A closer view of the North Wing. In the windows, you can see some of the class names. The first number is the Year, the second number is the class number. 2-2 is on the second floor, third from the left. That's Lena's class - Second Year, Class Two. There are two classes in her year. There are between two and four classes for each year. In the First Year, the class size is about 20 kids. From the Third Year, the class size gets bigger, about 30 kids. Altogether there are about 400 kids at this school.

*Nakatsu city is in the prefecture of Oita on the island of Kyushu. Population 70,000

Some Photos of the School Yard

The Swings

The view from a classroom out onto the yard and playground.

A closer view of the playground and jungle gym.

From the same window, pulling back a bit, showing the athletic track for the School Sports Day; the garden to the left; and to the right, a tent for the School Sports Day. By the time the School Sports day happens on October 4, there will be tents like this surrounding the track.

In the centre, sunken tires for balancing, and to the right, bars for doing flips and stuff.