Hello it’s me, Tunji! Towards the end of every semester Wakoku holds some joint classes with other schools. The English ALTs also take part in some of these joint classes. Wakoku is rare in the case that it has 4 English ALT’s working at the school. Not many schools have even one ALT. Most of the joint lessons held with the ALTs are with the neighboring special schools. Due to the pandemic we are unable to go to the schools in person instead we hold these lessons on Zoom. The lessons commonly consist of self introductions from the ALTs and students along with activities about the things we like. It’s an interesting change of pace from
the normal classes that we have at Wakoku.
This week at Wakoku, students have been writing their end of term one exams and teachers have been busy working through grading the piles of exams that have stacked up on their desks. Thankfully it’s not been as hot this week as the last, so everyone is feeling at least more physically comfortable now that the mental discomfort has gone up.
Students in Japan write a lot of exams compared to many other countries in the world. Japanese schools divide their academic year into three different semesters. Each semester, students write midterm and end of term exams. These exam periods are in addition to any extra tests and quizzes that are given during regular class time. Students also must worry about things like entrance exams to even get into high school and later again when applying to university.
This leads to a lot of studying. Japanese students are master studiers. Coming to school in the morning during exam week, students can even be seen doing last minute studying on the trains and busses and even some as they walk to school. The amount of effort that they put into their studies and at achieving academic success is inspiring.
Hopefully all of their preparations have paid off and the students of Wakoku will be proud of themselves for their achievements in the first term of this year.
Before coming to Japan, any idea I had of Japanese high school cultural festivals was mostly from what I have read in manga, which had gotten me very curious and I often wondered if I would ever get a chance to experience it. “My manga was telling me the truth!” was what I had thought when I first experienced Wakoku’s Cultural Festival in 2018. I was blown away. There were so much creativity and talents showcased during the Cultural Festival.
The theme for Cultural Festival in Wakoku this year was “Gameshow”. By making use of the premises of games such as Minecraft and Biohazard and drama series such as Squid game, the classes transformed their classrooms into attractions such escape rooms, casinos (don’t worry, no real money was traded), horror houses or even thrill rides (Yes! Students built a ride in their classroom). Through a play of words (e.g. Class 3-8 used Biohazard as their premise and named their attraction 8nohazard) or the incorporation of their home room teacher’s name (e.g. Mr Sakamoto’s class attraction was Poppy Sakamotime), these attractions were given a catchy name. The students also drew posters by hand and plastered them all over school. Even the staircases were not spared.
Besides the class attractions, there was an outdoor stage where students held the Best Class T-shirt contest, danced to the latest K-Pop tune and played the guitar using the finger-slapping style. Even though the weather was sweltering, the performances on the outdoor stage attracted a large crowd of both students and guests such as parents and junior high school students. It was truly a testimony of how good these performances were for the crowds to endure such heat just to catch them.
Another highlight for Cultural Festival was the student bands. It is common for students from different classes and levels to form a band. Most of them do covers of a variety of genre of music but occasionally, a band will play an original song of their own. It amazes me because such bands are rare in Singapore and being a J-Rock and indie fan, I often read about how professional bands started out playing together in their high school years. Seeing my students play had convinced me that such traditional still holds. Who knows, maybe one of these student bands would turn professional one of these days.
Even though this is my fourth year experiencing a Cultural Festival, I am still in awe by the talents that I see every year. I am sure that this is one thing that I will miss when my contract with the JET Program finishes.