"Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is . . . tomorrow."
- from 30 Minutes Over Tokyo, The Simpsons, Season 10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japanese Schools, Part 2

And here's the follow up.

I taught in Iwadeyama in Miyagi Prefecture, which is a pretty small farming community in north central Japan. So that had all the small town politics you could imagine.

I also taught in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which is comparable to many American cities. Not too small, but not too big either, like Tokyo or Osaka. Yamaguchi's on the southern tip of Honshu. And Yamaguchi city has a population of about 140,000, which is the smallest of all Prefectural capitals. It's also pretty close to Fukuoka (a major shopping center), Shimonoseki (which has an amazing fireworks display in August), and Hiroshima.

Another thing I wanted to mention was that nearly all schools require a school uniform. From The first week in October to the first week in June they wear their winter uniform, which is a long sleeve shirt or a jacket and skirt for girls and pants for boys. In June, they switch to their summer uniform which is a short sleeve shirt. There's also a lot of variations on uniforms, like a lot of different styles.

High school students tend to wear really short skirts too. Like when I taught in Miyagi, it was very fashionable for the high school girls to wear their skirt hiked up so high that it barely covered their butt (like it'd be maybe an inch below their shirt) and showed off the gym shorts they wore underneath. I saw at least three different color gym shorts, so my guess was a different color for each grade, but I didn't teach at that school, so I'm not sure.

Also, they typically don't have locker/changing rooms, and when they need to change into their gym uniform (which is the same for boys and girls), they usually just change in the classroom (boys and girls). The junior high school I taught at in Miyagi was kind of unique in that it had "locker rooms" for the students, a separate boys' and girls' one for each class. But, they weren't like the ones in America because if you looked out the window from the teachers' lounge you could see them. So the rule was just don't look out the window. But from an American standpoint, it seemed rather open and not at all private to me, but I would take that to having to change in hue classroom. But then, as you could probably guess from the fashionable high school uniforms, they typically wore at least their gym shorts under their regular school uniform.

Likewise, they rarely had lockers in the classrooms and didn't have any in the hallways, so most students would keep their book bag next to their desk with them. Which can be kind of annoying when you have thirty-some students crammed into a room that should only fit twenty or so. You just have to be careful not to trip over someone else's bag.

Another thing is that Japan doesn't have indoor heating, except in Hokaido. So the individual classrooms will have a space heater. So if you sit next to the heater in winter, you will be quite toasty. But if you sit on the opposite side of the room, then you'll be pretty cold. So some students, mainly girls because of their skirts, will take a blanket to school with them to cover their legs during the day.

And getting back to the school uniforms before I forget again. Not all schools require a uniform. My husband taught at a junior high school where they didn't require one, but most of the students chose to wear school uniforms anyway. Though instead of everyone wearing the same uniform, he said it looked like friends went shopping together to pick out matching uniforms. So there was a wide variety of school uniforms there, but groups of students tended to wear the same one. Except a couple students didn't wear a uniform at al.

And, since often times the uniforms are all the same, the only/main way girls can express themselves is by their hairstyle. So you can see a lot more elaborate hairstyles in Japan than you can see in the US. This might mostly be a junior high school thing though. But if you ever want to change your hairstyle, you can only do it over one of the breaks.

As far as I know, the breaks include Golden Week (a week long in May and corresponds with the Emperor's birthday), summer break (which I think is around July/August and lasts a month), and winter break (which is also a month long and is in December/January). Then there's a break at the end of the year, for about a month, that's in March. Their school year goes from the beginning of April to the beginning of March.

Also, I wanted to add that their breaks usually correspond with the end of a term. And at least for summer break they are usually given homework to do. But I'm not sure about winter break.

That's about all I can think of for now.

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