There are a number of aspects of Japanese society that seem a little odd from a British perspective. One of them is the fact that Japanese kindergartens have matriculation ceremonies. And uniforms. Today was the matriculation ceremony for Mayuki’s kindergarten, so she had to get dressed up in her uniform for it. I took most of the day off work so that I could attend, but naturally I wore a suit. The question of what Yuriko should wear was a bit more vexed. I thought she should wear a kimono, and basically she wanted to. However, kimonos are more trouble than western-style clothes, so for a while she was undecided. Finally, at the beginning of this week, she decided that she would wear a kimono.
That meant that she needed to choose the precise outfit, and then practise putting it on, because it is a few months since she last wore a kimono. That, in turn, meant that I had to look after Mayuki and get her to bed for a couple of nights this week, so that Yuriko would have time to practise. We really do need to work on a way to get Mayuki to bed earlier, but unfortunately you really can’t force someone to go to sleep, even if you can convince them to stay in bed; it took about half an hour for Mayuki to get to sleep last night after I’d won that battle.
In any case, Yuriko got her practice, and wore a kimono today. That did mean that I was in charge of getting Mayuki into her uniform, because it takes time to put a kimono on, but fortunately kindergarten uniforms are not complicated, and I’m sure Mayuki will be able to do it by herself fairly soon. (It won’t be instant, because the skirt doesn’t just pull on.) We left the flat a couple of minutes later than planned, but we had, of course, planned for delays, so we still managed to catch the bus that takes us almost all the way to the kindergarten.
Unfortunately, on the way to the bus stop Mayuki fell over and grazed her knee, which made her less cheerful than she had been. She wasn’t at all lively on the bus, and it was obvious that she was feeling a bit sleepy. She kept demanding that I carry her, and although she was happy to walk when we got to the kindergarten, led the way to her classroom, and said good morning to her teacher, she wasn’t as happy about leaving us as she usually is. In fact, she was clinging to me and crying when it was time for the parents to go to the gym, ready for the ceremony. I had to hand her over to the teacher and then walk out on her.
There were a lot of parents with cameras in the gymnasium, so it wasn’t really possible to see Mayuki much during the ceremony. However, I could see that she’d stopped crying, and was basically being cooperative, if not as active as she often is. The ceremony involved greetings from the chairman of the governors, singing the kindergarten song, a speech from the headteacher (“The slides are all your slides, and the picture book are all of yours as well.”), before finishing with an action song. I don’t think Mayuki did the actions, though.
After that, which took about ten minutes, the children left again, to play with their teachers while the headteacher told us a bit more about the kindergarten’s plans to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake. One point he made was that the kindergarten was happy to take children who had been evacuated from the northeast, which is good, because finding kindergarten places in Kawasaki is hard. The other points were about how the kindergarten would respond to various levels of radiation, which were eminently sensible. (“If the government is telling everyone in Kawasaki to stay inside, we will close the kindergarten”; yes, that sounds like a good idea. I really don’t think it will come to that.) After that, it was back to the classroom, for some more information from Mayuki’s class teacher. Mayuki got a bit clingy again at that point, and when we went out for the class photo, she didn’t want to leave us to sit on the front row. Fortunately, there was a low platform for the new students to stand on, and the parents were supposed to stand behind them in any case, so she was able to participate in the photograph. She then, rather more enthusiastically, went to play on the jungle gym-type equipment, which gave me a chance to take some photographs of her with the cherry blossoms in the background.
At the matriculation ceremonies for Japanese schools and kindergartens, the school puts up a sign saying that it’s that year’s ceremony, and everyone has a family photograph taken in front of it. We did that, but Mayuki wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about being involved. She was rather more enthusiastic about gatecrashing another family’s photograph, in fact. Getting her to head for the bus required promising her lunch (chips and ketchup) at the local family restaurant, but as soon as we got on the bus, she lay down on my knee and fell asleep. She remained asleep as I carried her from the bus stop to our flat, up the hill, and then woke up, wanting her chips, as soon as we put her in bed.
In any case, lunch was nice, and she ate some sweetcorn as well as the chips and ketchup, and we opened her cards from her grandparents. So, although I didn’t really get any work done today (I had one lesson in the evening), we did have a very nice family day.