My son is in the second year of junior high, so it’s time for us to start thinking about what high school he’ll be attending. Unlike in the U.S., Japan’s compulsory education ends with junior high, making high school an optional choice, not unlike university. Different high schools cater to different types of students — for example, there are high schools that focus on sending students to top-ranked universities, commercial high schools that teach practical job skills, agricultural high schools for students who’ll take over the family farm someday, and at least one school dedicated to teaching students to get jobs as commercial airline pilots later in life. Yesterday we attended the bunka-sai (culture festival) of a school my son is considering, the highest-ranked boy’s high school in our prefecture. We roamed the halls, checking out the displays the various clubs had made for us, like the Math Club, which had prizes if you could solve problems they’d posted, or the Model Railroad Research Club, which had created a miniature Japanese city for trains to zoom around. (For some reason, really smart students in Japan always seem to be train otaku.) As I roamed, I went into stealth mode, pretending not to speak Japanese so I could judge the English ability of the students at the school, and most of them could at least talk to me when I asked them questions. The culture festival wasn’t exactly moe moe kyun (to use my favorite phrase from K-On) due to the school being all-boy’s, but it was fun to be able to experience an anime-style “school festival” episode in my own life just the same.
I got to experience a real-live “school festival” although it wasn’t quite as cool as this.