We have officially moved into the Central Japanese Alps. The boys and I will be living in the countryside for one month. For now, I will break from the story of the family temple to share about my son’s first day of school in Japan. See the photo of him decked out in uniform below!
The Japanese culture is known for a community focus, putting the welfare of the community over individual wants. Uniformity and discipline are prized staples of Japan. These values are engrained early on, even at the ripe age of three. From the beginning, children wear uniform clothing and they are expected to do things independently. Structure abounds and a culturally ignorant person sticks out immediately. Even after ten years of traveling to Japan and being married to a Japanese man, I make cultural faux pas. For example, when we first entered the school, I did not notice a pathway in the flooring indicated where to walk with street shoes versus indoor slippers and I accidentally stepped on the “street shoes” path with my slippers, embarrassing my husband.
in preparation for the first day of school, we decided on a makeover from our independent-minded, American boy. My son has always had long hair, like that of a stereotypical surfer or rock star. In typical mommy fashion, I am overly emotional and adoring of my son’s locks. Putting my attachment aside, I want him to feel comfortable at his new school and I know long hair here is attention-getting, especially in the countryside. So off to the salon we went! My son sat in a metal car and watcheda Pokemon DVD, while I bit my lip in anticipation. Moments later, the floor was filled with hair and my son had aged three years. He looked like a grown boy instead of my little toddler.
Other preparations involved getting all his outfits and supplies together. Uniforms are commonplace for school kids of all ages in Japan. There are many parts to the assemble. At Nico’s age, kids wear a straw brimmed hat with a bow that reminds of hats worn by Amish men. He wears navy shorts with built in suspenders and a matching blazer. The only part of his outfit he can choose are his shoes, a sharp contrast with black and neon green sneakers! Everyday he carries his own messenger bag, filled with eating utensils (lunch is provided), cloth napkin, and hand towel. He also carries a metal thermos on ads trap for water. Some kids bring tea! Am I the only one afraid of a three-year-old with a caffeine buzz? Once at school,he switches to special white shoes made exclusively for indoor use.