This morning I was at Hagi Nishi by 8.30am – just! It was the School Bunkasai (Cultural Festival). I had seen some preparations at Nishi, but no rehearsals, earlier in the week, so I was vaguely looking forward to the whole shebang! I say vaguely, because I knew it was all going to be in Japanese, and that I would have pretty much no one to talk to all day.
Firstly, the Mishima kids had to get up on the stage and introduce themselves. My goodness, they must have been freaking out! They are used to 10 people in the room at any one time for a ‘crowd’ whereas there are almost 400 students at Nishi, plus a sizable collection of teachers and parents also there, all staring at them! To their credit, they did pretty well on the self intros, and then later when they gave a short presentation about their lives in Mishima.
So firstly each year level presented sort of ‘a year that was’ - except for the 7th graders, who have only been at JHS for about 5 months! Then came the choral competition. Each year level had clearly been assigned 2 songs, and each grade had to sing each of those songs… Let’s just say that sung Japanese is not the most attractive noise! Or rather, Japanese sung by 7th and 8th graders is not pleasing to the ear. The 9th graders were actually decent!
Lunch break – ok bento, better because I didn’t have to pay for it! Then back to the warm, dark hall (some may say perfect for sleeping, and I would have to agree – I had to get up and stand near the open door for fresh air to stay awake). Each grade presented a ‘play’ – rather the 7th graders did a play, and each the 8th and 9th grade had made videos. I didn’t really understand a lot of it, but I did gather that the 9th grade video was about bullying.
Thankfully it was almost over – because I was in serious danger of falling asleep!
I must say, ‘Cultural Day’ to me conjured up images of a school fete – different food, and shows. However at Hagi Nishi I was proved wrong. 2 of the speech contest entrants did their recitations, and at the end the word ‘thank you’ was uttered in 8 different languages. Not quite sure who was being thanked, nor what they were being thanked for.
I suppose it would be hard to celebrate ‘culture’ in terms of multiculturalism – that simply does not exist here. Obviously I notice in the classrooms that everyone is Japanese – contrast it to an Australian classroom where students come from everywhere. But today’s event really brought home the idea monoculturalism, and how prevalent it is here. That may explain why people find us Gaijin so interesting – looking in our shopping baskets, questioning our eating habits and congratulate us on our chopstick usage (“hashi jozu”).