My son has officially finished the third grade, and will be beginning his new adventure next month, at an experimental school in which half the lessons are taught in English, half in Japanese The new school is coming together nicely, and we attended the orientation on Sunday, meeting the teachers and finding out which class our son will be in. It was our first time inside this completely new facility — which looks like it was designed by the Ikea company, not exactly something you expect when you go to a Japanese elementary school. Because a partial immersion school funded with public money is such a bold project, it’s attracting a lot of media attention, and there were TV cameras everywhere, recording footage for future broadcasting on the news. Since I’m the only American parent in the entire school, I stand out even more than I usually do in my daily life here in rural Japan. When we met our son’s new homeroom teacher, who’s also from the States, I asked him some questions in Japanese, and the cameras were there to record it all: there’s nothing more interesting than two gaijin speaking Japanese to each other. During the orientation, many parents were buzzing about a new product that security company Secom has released, a portable GPS device that makes it possible for parents to see where their children are, and to send a signal that they’d like a Secom employee to go pick up their child if they’re worried about them. A number of recent incidents, including the kidnapping/murder of a girl in Nara in November of last year, have made parents and teachers especially aware of the potential dangers that lurk out in the world.
The end of an era has been reached: voice actress Nobuyo Oyama is finally retiring after over a quarter of a century of performing the voice of Japan’s most famous anime character, Doraemon, the nekogata robotto (“robot of cat type”) who comes from the future to help keep his friend Nobita out of trouble. The show has consistently been ranked as the favorite anime of all time by the majority of Japanese viewers. In addition to Oyama, the voices for Gian, Shizuka, and Nobita himself are retiring. The final episode with the original cast aired last week with emotional farewell messages by the voice actors.
We hope everyone had a Happy Easter. Like Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day and Superbowl Sunday, Easter is one of those special days that are easy to lose track of when you’re a gaijin living in Japan — it’s just a lot harder to be aware of these special events when living in another country. This year we had a rather traditional Easter, however, thanks to my mother coming from San Diego. She brought Easter chocolate and baskets and dye to color eggs with. My kids had loads of fun enjoying some American traditions in Japan.