Inside a Japanese Junior High: A Singing Contest and Cute Schoolgirl Antics

Many foreigners may wonder what it’s really like in Japanese schools. Well, I have a friend “Greguto,” who’s been an AET (Assistant English Teacher) in Japan for a while now, working both in elementary and middle schools. The following is from one of his emails (used with permission, of course, and with the names censored or changed to protect the innocent, lol). The first part is about a singing contest at a Junior High, but those of you who are most interested in the schoolgirl part, just skip to the last two paragraphs (they come after the other image below — I thought of using another pic I saw at Alafista, but Greguto might not have appreciated that!) I should also point out that all opinions expressed below are Greguto’s and are not necessarily endorsed by DS or Daijoubu!

First of all, I only have two more weeks left of school. Next week is my last week at a junior high school (the same place where I worked this week and part of last week); the following week is split between four elementary schools. On my last day at my current junior high school there is a singing contest. It`s the same deal as at ****: all of the homerooms in each grade compete against each other. Each grade has to sing one song selected for their year; the other song is chosen by each homeroom from a list of songs. On Friday, each grade will sing their required song together. Then, they will split into their homerooms. First, they will sing the required song. Then, they will song the song they have chosen. Judges (all teachers, sometimes the principal and vice principal, too) will rate them in certain categories. The first year students (7th graders) go first, followed by the second year students. Then, there`s an hour break for lunch, after which the third year students sing.

At —-, one of the third year classes is singing, “We Are the World.” So, I’ve been asked by the girls in the class to listen to them (and the boys) when they rehearse and comment on their pronunciation. It`s actually not too bad, though I can tell that it`s a bunch of Japanese people singing the song instead of native-English speakers. I think it`s because some English-sounds are similar to but not the same as some Japanese sounds (our “o” sound, like in “more,” sounds more like the combination of o, a, and u in Japanese). I also think that they could blend the words together more. Still, the singing is great, and when I tell them to pronounce something differently, they tend to do it.

If you notice, I haven`t mentioned any boys at —-. Boys tend to be much shier than girls in junior high school. Also, I think that learning languages is more of a girl thing in Japan (as indeed, it is in most parts of the world) until the guys need it for work. Since the English taught in schools is more conversational (sometimes to the detriment of the English language), girls tend to be more interested in it than boys. I`m sure, too, that more girls want to date and marry foreign men than men want to date and marry foreign women. Regarding travel, too, Japanese women do it more than Japanese men.

Getting back to the singing contest, one thing that I may not have mentioned about the one at **** is that, before the results were announced, the PTA went up and sang two songs. At —- JHS, instead of the PTA, the teachers, vice principal, and principal will sing a song. As I am an AET, I was asked to sing with them. And yes, it is in Japanese, but the lyrics are in hiragana and katakana (the two phonetic Japanese alphabets), so I can read them no problem. Plus, we’ve had rehearsals since I started working there last week (to be briefly interrupted by my two days at elementary schools). The rehearsals are usually after lunch, though one day we had the rehearsal after school in the music room so that we could sing with the piano. Usually, we sing around a CD player, which has a track for the men`s part (played by a piano), and a track for the women`s part (played by a piano). At the concert, Mr. [Yamada], one of the English teachers, will play the piano, while another teacher will conduct, just as the students will have a conductor and a piano player (both from their homeroom) for each song (and there will be different conductors and piano players for each song, with one piano player and one conductor being chosen for when the grade sings the required song together). One thing we can do that the students can`t, however, is bring our songbooks up onstage with us when we sing. The concert will be taped, but I`m not sure if I can get a copy of it, or at least of the teachers` singing. If not, it`ll still be a great memory for me.

In case you`re wondering, the song is from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which is an animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki. He`s the same guy that did My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki`s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. I should tell my former Japanese teacher that we`re singing that song; Laputa is her favorite Miyazaki movie.

I had forgotten how great the students were at this school. There are some that really love English, and I`m convinced that at least two of them will become fluent by the time they finish college, with a third possibly becoming fluent by then, too. In fact, their pronunciation reminds me of high level 3 speakers that I used to teach at ####. Not perfect, but pretty good. Also, when one first-year girl blows you kisses, a second year girl says that she`s happy to see you, and some third year girls can`t talk to you because they`re giggling and blushing too much (in between saying, “Kawaii. Choo kawaii!” which means, “Cute. So cute!!”), you will tend to enjoy that school.

There’s a funny story about the girl who blows me kisses, whose name is [Rin]. Unlike in America, Japanese students are responsible, along with their teachers, for cleaning the school. It`s usually done each day, though some schools do it after lunch, while others do it after the last period in the day. This includes all of the classrooms, the teacher`s room, and even the library. So, on Friday, I was wandering around watching the students clean and decided to head into the library, as I hadn’t been there since my first term. A bunch of first year students were there, including [Rin], and a Japanese teacher (as in, she teaches Japanese). At one point, this girl linked arms with me and made some comment in Japanese to her classmates about how we would look as couples or how we would be as a couple (as long as the students are initiating, the teachers take it for the joke that it is–they`re less inclined than Americans to freak out about having a sense of humor). One of her friends said, “Kawaiisoo,” which means, “That`s a pity.” In true Japanese fashion, she unlocked arms with me and lightly smacked her friend on the head with her hand. The funny thing was that her friend`s reaction was so quick and was aimed at [Rin], meaning that it was a pity for me. Anyway, I thought it was funny. Mr. [Yamada] has also tried to instigate some girls in asking me to marry them, but I always say that they are too young for me. Then they usually tease Mr. [Yamada] about showing them a picture of his girlfriend, which he refuses to do. Ah, the Japanese.

4 Responses to “Inside a Japanese Junior High: A Singing Contest and Cute Schoolgirl Antics”

  • I should become a teacher in Japan, YES?

  • Not quite as funny as that one black guy who always got molested by little Japanese boys.

  • Tis Greguto!
    I wonder if that black guy was “kanchoed” by the boys (I haven`t read the post). Basically, it`s when boys (and sometimes girls) put their palms flat against each other and quickly jab you in the family jewels (though they also like doing it in the other end, too). Luckily, this rarely happens in junior high schools (I`ve never seen it myself), though many elementary school children love to do it, especially from 4th grade down. And yes, if you want to feel like a rockstar, teaching in the Japanese school system will make you feel that way, though realize that within a year or two after a new AET replaces you, you will be most likely forgotten–unless that AET is a complete imbecile.

  • Here is our Hiragana song. We also have performed it in school, and it was used to teach kindergarten children in Hawaii! We have so much fun performing it, as everyone dances around and smiles and laughs!

    Please let us share the listening of the song with you. :)

    Do not worry! Goodnight Kiss is a music company, not anything unproper!

    Domo arigato! :)

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