originally published September 5, 2022
Between Christmas in Kyoto, and Golden Week in Tokyo, I skipped several months of life on my little island. To make up the difference, I’ll be writing a series of mini-posts around a theme or event from my season of settling in: January to March 2022.
Where else to begin but with the epicenter of my activities here, Tokunoshima High School? As the Japanese school year ends in April, the spring quarter featured the sort of scholarly occasions that I would associate with summertime.
The seniors (or Grade 3 students as they’re known here) bent to the classic end-of-year task: a group presentation. If they ever tire of the ever-recurring topic, “Tell us about Tokunoshima”, the complaints must be lost in translation. Personally, I revel in the opportunity to collect sightseeing recommendations straight from the horse’s mouth. Rock formations, palm tree tunnels, local burger joints — I keep copious notes.
The kids had a chance to relax on the day of the school race, a typical school event conducted nationwide. I eagerly asked if I could join that same morning, but spontaneity rarely carries the day here — they politely suggested I postpone my enthusiasm until next year. Waiting under the tent by the finish gave me a front row seat to the excitement, though.
During the lulls, one of the teachers consulted me on purchasing plane tickets to California: he had his heart set on attending an Angels baseball game, with all the details imagined, down to claiming a seat behind homeplate.
The staff greeted their finishers with the reserved approbation I would have expected from the cultural stereotypes, with one exception. When the students from the special education school crossed the finish line, everyone broke out into whoops, cheers, and applause. Some things take precedence over decorum.