Back to Kindergarten With Me…

Today’s assignment was a visit to the Sumire Kindergarten to play with the kids. We’ve been working on this since the first week, and it was time to finally show our stuff. The kindergarten itself is run by the University, and we did three separate “performances”: for the 2 & 3 year olds and again for the 4 year olds, we did the “Hokey Pokey”—first in Japanese, then in English. For the 5 year olds, we did “Simon Says” in Japanese and English. It was all a lot of fun—but really exhausting too. It’s also humbling to be in a room full of little kids that could speak way better than I could. (Check out the new photo album of the event on the Photos page.)

I really thought the whole kindergarten experience was very interesting. All the kids were very well behaved, did everything together as a group and were constantly being shown the right way to do things by their teachers. It was amazing that they were already learning English—even the 3 year olds. They were all really quick with the English words we used in the games and songs and I was extremely impressed.

It was also interesting, because each child wears the same uniform, has the same “inside shoes”, and so forth. When we ate lunch with them (I got to eat with a class of 4 year olds), they all pulled out their little lunch boxes and ate everything—dutifully showing their teacher the empty container when they’d finished. They then each went to rinse out their boxes, came back to the table and put their chopsticks and spoons away and wrapped everything up, then laid down for a rest. Then came time for everyone to go out to the sinks to wash hands, faces and brush their teeth. It was all very well choreographed and each child did it all perfectly.

I mean, this was seeing what many of us think about the Japanese people in action: a very regimented, group-based society working together in harmony. Some of us were a bit taken aback because it seemed like every minute the kids were being told what to do, in the same way and at the same time—with a hint of military precision. But then, that’s what you need if you value the group and harmony (the Wa). It was certainly unlike any kindergarten I could think of in the states. In America, there’s absolutely no way you could do this—we value individualism at the expense of everything else.

As for me, I thought it was pretty great. Children being taught how to behave, how to function and how to cooperate. I mean, the last thing we do in America is teach our children how to behave in school—that would bring on lawsuits and “deny someone their rights”. No, it’s far more important to let kids run wild, not pay attention in class, spell words however they feel like spelling, divide into groups that work against each other, whatever. Kind of sad, I think…

Anyway, that’s the end of the philosophical rant. Afterwards, we were free to go our separate ways, so I of course went shopping again. This time I bought more books (DUH—what else…) and visited a hobby shop where I stocked up on some interesting Neon Genesis Evangelion goodies (that’s an anime I like, for those of you unaware…). Now I’ve been using this journal entry as an excuse to not start studying for the last written exam tomorrow. <Sigh>. But then it’ll soon be all over. I guess in the end a month isn’t that long…

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One thought on “Back to Kindergarten With Me…

  1. There were 2 comments on the original blog entry:

    Phyllis
    Hi Doug,
    Your Kindergarten day sounded wonderful, and everyone had a great time, kids and adults. I read that the language part of the trip is going better now – that’s good. The journal entries and photos I have really enjoyed are all about the trips you have taken. Maybe you missed your calling – how about journalist and photographer, although we miss you at work, so it will be good to have you back again. We are having fun with your contest, posted outside your office door. I still haven’t guessed yet, though.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay – more travel ahead.
    Saturday, July 8, 2006 – 01:02 PM


    Rebecca
    Howdy Doug!
    I enjoyed your philosophical rant–and agreed with all of it. Boy, this kindergarten class sure sounded like a terrific environment. Think of how much more children could learn here if they would just be taught some self-control. One of the many expenses of a “free” society. I, too, like the regiment and routine these children are taught; they’ve got many more years to go wild if they so choose. I love the photo of all the little children in their uniforms and stocking feet. I would have LOVED to be able to take off my shoes in school (now, I just do it at work. 😉

    Your presence is missed here and I can’t believe it’s already been a month. I agree with Phyllis that your photos are extraordinary. I must know what kind of camera you have! We’ve got lots of work to keep you busy with when you return so rest up next week! Have a safe journey home.
    Wednesday, July 12, 2006 – 11:08 AM

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