The end of March, in Japan, signifies the end of a school year. Graduation was held last week and I will attend my school closing ceremony tomorrow morning. The junior high school, where I have been based this last year and a half, will be closing permanently this spring. Decrease in birthrates in Japan are apparent in countryside towns like Ikeda.
I drive about half an hour every Monday morning to teach all eleven students at Kawasaki Elementary School. And the student population at my junior high school is decreasing at a rapid speed. Also, the actual building is not up to current building codes.
Graduation ceremonies in Japan are tearful with the anticipation of nostalgia. This year, as the head teacher could barely speak through his tears at the ceremony, I found myself growing wistfully sentimental. And when I told a co-teacher this she took deep breaths in attempts to suspend her tears.
I gave my favorite student my email address and told her she must contact me when she goes to America to study English. In her American accent she responded, "Yes, of course I will."
Teachers are moved to various locations throughout the prefecture (or state) this time of year. Sometimes they will be moved hours from their family home, only to return on the weekends. This movement is seen as part of the job, an expected transition every few years.
My two favorite co-workers will be leaving our elementary school this year. One to an elementary school in Ikeda that I will not be visiting.
The other will be transitioning from the role of a vice principal to a principal.
Both these women have made all the awkward moments of my life here in Japan somehow less awkward. This afternoon when I called the school to ask about the location of tomorrows work party I spoke with the vice principal. We both giggled our way through the conversation and as it ended she told me, in English, "You have become very good at speaking Japanese." I told her, in English, "I know."
This time last year I was tramping around New Zealand. This year I stuck around Ikeda long enough to see winter actually end as the cherry blossoms opened this morning.
Hopefully, I will have enough time and sobriety after tomorrow evenings party to pack for a weeks return to Thailand. And when I return from another visit to Southeast Asia my aunt, uncle and cousins will be convening back in Shikoku.