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Okay, yeah, these photos are a few weeks old.  We went to Tokyo a while back before the cherry blossoms bloomed.  And now they have come and gone.

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While we were there, we saw some early blooming cherry blossom trees.

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Really crowded around those few trees.

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Ueno Park

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I spied a ShiShi.

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Darth Vader spied me.  We went to an action figure type store.  Lots of Star Wars and Transformers stuff.  For the boy.

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He said, “Look!  That looks like a bad word!”

Yes.  Why, yes, it does.


We had the junior high entrance ceremony on Monday.  And so, obviously that means that my son has made it through elementary school.  With a gaijin mom.

So my advice for those with kids going into Japanese elementary?

  • Each student has a notebook called a Renrakucho. “renraku” means “To connect”.  So it is a notebook for connecting with the teacher.  You write messages in it for the teacher and the teacher writes her messages to you. 連絡帳=れんらくちょう  This works well if you are a native Japanese person.  If Japanese is your second language….well, good luck!  (Maybe you can get the teacher to write in hiragana.  That never worked though.  My son’s teachers’ had the attitude, “Fuck you.  I am gonna write in kanji and I am gonna write messy.”  I generally gave the renrakucho to my husband to read.)
  • You will get loads and loads of papers that inform you of various events.  In Japanese.  I think different people deal with it differently, but I often let my husband read them, and I skimmed for important info.
  • Each student MUST bring tissues and handkerchief to school. Every. Single. Day.  (According to my husband, handkerchief should be ironed, but I never did that.)  The tissues should be cutey cute Sanrio or Yokai Watch, not “For a Good Time Call 555-5555.”  The handkerchief should be cutey cute Mario or Pokemon, not some random handkerchief you dug out of the bottom of your drawer.
  • Elementary School will start very easy.  As in “This is the Number One.  Let’s write the Number One.”  DON’T FREAK OUT.  It does get harder.  Soon, you will be standing over your child saying, “Shit.  I can’t help you.  I didn’t learn this stuff in school.”  So just be patient and hang in there.
  • Bring your dictionary to the meetings.  Try to understand.  Yes, I know it sounds like Blah Blah Blah.  But after six years it will sound like “Everyone we would like blah blah and so now let’s thank the blah blah. ”  So, um, hang in there.
  • Parents=”hogosha” (literally:  guardian)  It is said VERY quickly, so don’t make the dumb mistake of thinking they are talking about radiation (hosya).
  • Fathers do come to the class activities.  Grandparents do come to the class activities.  So don’t feel like, just because you are a dad, you don’t belong.  People understand that some dads have jobs where they can join in, and some don’t.  (Just like moms.)
  • There may be bullying.  Luckily, we didn’t have much of a problem with it.  My son’s classmates are easygoing so everything was okay.  If there is bullying, there are good Facebook groups you can join and discuss with other moms in similar circustances.  Bullying can be horrible, so I don’t want to make light of it.
  • There may even be bullying by teachers.  We had a crap teacher when we evacuated to Yamagata.  That is a whole nother blog post.
  • Try to seek out other gaijin parents.  We are all in the same boat.
  • This may be controversial, but I always wanted my son to blend in clothes wise.  If that meant wearing an ugly grey sweatshirt that said, “Boys Cool Happy Club” That was fine.  (I left the choices up to him in what to wear.)
  • There will be homework Every. Single. Day. That includes holidays.  Do not be surprised.
  • There will be school outings and bentos and shit that will leave you utterly confused.  Contact the teacher for help, and try to ask a nice mom for help if possible.
  • Anything else?  I know Japanese school has a bad reputation, but I feel like my son got well educated.  They learn lots of skills like sewing and cooking that don’t get done in America.  The schools (generally) build character and “gaman”.  And believe it or not, I think kids can be imaginative in Japanese schools.  Hey, the entire video game industry developed out of Japan, and if that’s not imaginative, I don’t know what is.  So they are not becoming little robots.  They are become good citizens.
  • Oh, one last thing.  You will need to inform your child of the things they don’t learn in Japanese schools that you want your child to learn.  Be it Australian history, or British inventors, or American racism, or Japanese occupation……..they probably won’t get THAT in school.  (Taught the way you like, so do it at home.)  Also, the English class in fifth grade and sixth grade is HORRIBLE.  Worse than horrible.  Half the time my son came home and said, “English was cancelled today.”  So do English elsewhere.