Induction Ceremony Japanese Daycare Center
All going well, there will be a picture at the top of this blog entry, showing the daycare grounds. We see, to the left, the little elephant slide which has been there all the time while daughter Cornucopia has been in attendance. And, on the right, the new playground equipment.
The playground is one big sandpit, not a blade of grass in site, and the tree in the center is, I realize, a cherry tree, as it is in blossom right now.
This may be one of the last pictures ever to be taken with our venerable digital camera, as it seems to have expired. The LCD screen shows no picture and the last few photographs were just black.
One of the pictures that turned out black was a shot of three people at the ceremony on Monday 1 April 2007 for the start of the new daycare year. The picture should have shown me, my wife and our daughter Cornucopia, who is now in the suzuran class, "suzuran" being a word which translates into English as "lily of the valley."
As a member of the suzuran class she gets a yellow hat, which she has to wear on her expeditions between the daycare center and home, and she moves from a room with a tatami mat floor to one with a floor of wooden boards.
In keeping with the responsibilities of the age she is about to attain - she will very soon be three - she will be expected, from now on, to put her own socks in the sock box assigned to her. And find them herself at the end of the day.
Part of my image of Japan is that it is a land of many speeches, and today's ceremony lived up to expectations. There were a lot of speeches, taking up a good thirty minutes, and all of them were bad, excepting one.
The one and only good speech was given by the headmaster, who showed up in formal black, complete with a clerical collar. His speech was good because:
1. He kept it short.
2. He was crystal clear about the points he was making, which were two in number, point #1 being that you have a responsibility to your new friends and point #2 being that you have a responsibility to god.
3. He could be heard, which a point on which all the other speakers could be faulted. None of them had any idea of how to project their voices, and the toy PA system which was supposed to amplify their reedy voices wasn't much help. Those in the audience who were five and under, which was most of them, supplied their own soundtrack which garbled much of what the other speakers were trying to say.
Speeches done, my wife showed me around. To accommodate my wretchedly bad eyesight, all the hooks and boxes for Cornucopia's stuff are either top right, top left, bottom right or bottom left, with the sole exception of her sock box, which she is expected to find by herself.
I think I have the procedure down.
#1. Arrive, park Silver Cross push chair.
#2. Shoes off and into Cornucopia's shoe box.
#3. At location #2, sign a form stating Cornucopia's arrival time.
#4. Go right and hang up Cornucopia's hat and jacket on a hook in the corridor.
#5. Go left into the classroom and hang up Cornucopia's first hand-towel-with-a-loop on the hook provided, at which point Cornucopia should box her socks.
#6. Go write Cornucopia's temperature (taken at home before departure) and pickup details in the form provided.
#7. Stash notebook (which travels between home and class).
#8. Put one apron into each of the two apron boxes and one towel into each of the three towel boxes.
#8A. Also, if there are spare clothes or nappies to download, deposit these into the clear case which holds Cornucopia's spare clothing and spare nappies (ie diapers).
#9. Go into the toilet and put Cornucopia's towel-with-a-loop-#2 on its hook.
#10. In the toilet, put a plastic bag into the clear case for any soiled Cornucopia clothing generated during the day.
#11. Go to the far end of the classroom and deposit Cornucopia's toothbrush and toothbrush cup.
Only eleven steps.
My wife introduced me to each of the four teachers and explained that I don't see well.
And then we were done.
My wife headed for work but I, having taken the day off, went to the barber's. While I was there, I mentally rehearsed the daycare steps.
A TV was on, tuned, I think, to one of the commercial channels, and there was some news about Lindsay Ann Hawker, the English teacher from England recently found dead in a bath filled with sand.
It seems that, if I followed the Japanese-language news broadcast correctly, her hair has now been discovered. Packed inside a garbage bag, I believe.
I got my haircut done, which cost 950 yen, about as much as I would pay for a basic haircut in New Zealand, or maybe less. I was asked if I wanted a shampoo, but I said, no, just cut it.
When I got home, I took the photo of the blue crow-proof garbage net which will be sitting outside our house until this time next year. Technically, it should have been our turn in the year finishing March 31, but my wife spent part of that year in New Zealand with me, so one of our six neighbors obligingly took over our turn.
It's pretty simple. You don't have to put the net out because you just leave it tied to something inside the garage, and, when you come home from work, you fold the net and tidy up any loose garbage which has gone and gotten itself spewed across the landscape.
Usually there is one set and permanent place for rubbish, but, after six new households moved into this neighborhood, our garbage place vanished due to reconstruction, so we had to sort out a new place, and hit on the idea of rotating the spot, one year at a time, so that your turn only comes round once every six years.
This year it will also be our turn to pass round the community noticeboard and collect dues from the neighborhood association to which we belong, but my wife has said that she will take care of that.
Having arrived home, I put our red plastic kerosene can inside. The empty can was left at the gate with payment and the kero guy not only filled it but also hauled it up the steps and deposited it right outside the door.
That may be the last kerosene that we buy this year as the temperature has spiked upwards. Yesterday I think the temperature in some parts of Honshu spiked up above 30 degrees Celsius in some places, and, in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, daytime temperatures are now somewhere round about twenty degrees or upwards.
I have stashed my gloves and no longer carry two jerseys with me when I leave the house. Winter is definitely over, the cherry blossom has bloomed throughout Tokyo, and we are already having our first hints of the summer which is to come.
When we returned to Japan last year, my wife did all the cooking for many months, but now I have started doing a little meal-making. At the moment I'm just cooking Sunday dinner, but, later in the year, I will cook on Fridays as well.
For my first meal, a few weeks back, I wanted to cook exploding squid, the little squid which will blow themselves apart if you crank up the heat sufficiently. But this delicacy was not in the supermarket, so maybe they have a season, and maybe it's not squid season right now. So, for my first meal, I cooked boring old salmon, which cannot be made to go bang regardless of how hot you make it, and scallops.
Other things I have cooked since restarting in the world of cuisine include pork chops and chicken.
With all these meals I have cooked baked potatoes, as these are a source of magnesium, and low magnesium levels was the warning I got from the doctor at my last hospital appointment.
A new daycare year is underway, then, and the daycare speeches are over for the year.
Meantime, however, we have loudspeaker vans trundling around the local streets broadcasting election propaganda, as there is some kind of election coming up on the weekend. Here in Japan, candidates who want to be elected do not do doorknocking, for the simple reason that they are specifically forbidden to. The theory is that if they aren't allowed to come to your door then they won't be in a position to offer you bribes.