Saturday, March 27, 2004

OO baby, I've just come back from a night of frivolities with the maniacs at Hiroko, my school. No, not really, but I did have a good night with a few of the senseis at the official farewell party for the outgoing teachers from my school office. Tonight was the farewell enkai for everybody in the office who will be 'traded' to another school this academic year. It was pretty cool, especially cos it was free and I could get pissed and stuffed for nowt!!

After the school party (enkai) I met up with some other JETs who had also just left their respective enkais and I decided that it was a really good idea to get even more tipsy. We went to the *international* bar and then went to a bar called Genya for the finishing drinks.

The best thing about tonight, the thing that made me cry a little bit, was the closing ceremonial sing song and the ritual wailing that happens at all the big enkais that I go to. The sing song generally involves everybody joining arms and making a circle around the tables at which we are socialising. I can't really say much about the song itself because it's in Japanese, but it's the 'ye olde' school song and it's a song that sounds like brotherhood, sisterhood and a shared sense of suffering during hard times. I will learn the lyrics and their meaning before I leave Japan. After the sing song there took place a ritual that I remember happened last year when folks left to go to different schools and workplaces. This was what made me grizzle a bit. One of the more ambitious members of the teaching staff, the office creep, who usually acts out the ritual, did his stuff in front of the fifteen departing senseis who were stood on the stage in front of everybody, which was a bit like the Maori hukka that the Kiwis do.

It was great, but then somebody prompted our principal to do the same thing. Our principal, of sixty years, who has been a long term veteran of Hirosaki koko since he was a wee lad (about twenty five years including his time as a student there), ended his career at the same place that he grew up. A man who is no taller than the frailest of the current first year students, and who bows at least one hundred times a day, stood in front of everybody and wailed, flinging his arms about, bellowing out the ritual chant of god knows what to all of us. It was a cultural experience. It was almost as if he could bellow and bellow until he collapsed on the floor. I could never imagine this kind of thing happening at a teachers party back home. The sense of knowing and belonging that I then understood of the teachers at my school hit me all of a sudden. It made my eyes water, so I went off to get drunk with my friends.

I had an interesting night.