Farewell ceremony. Everyone lined up in the gym and we clapped them out to the school song. There were more tears. I was sick, so they all soaked into my mask. Hawt.
We also had the farewell party for the leaving staff tonight. There were many sad speeches, but I was generally okay because a. I don’t understand much Japanese and b. I was wearing makeup and determined not to taint it.
At every enkai there is seating assigned by lottery. For the first few enkais I was automatically placed next to whatever English teacher I walked in with, but now that I have drank successfully with a few of the teachers I’m pretty much left to fend for myself. This time I got placed right next to the teacher who always yells in Japanese that we are “special” friends. Although we barely understand each other, we manage to communicate fairly well because he’s not terrified of my big bad English and doesn’t mind putting a conversation on hold for us both to whip out our dictionaries and just point at words. I do unfortunately go bright red every time we talk though. Fortunately for us I and every Japanese person also go bright red when we drink, so it went unnoticed.
After the speeches my Kendo sensei came and sat next to me, smiling and talking in Japanese. I didn’t understand any of it but a JTE near me said “He wants to know why you don’t come to Kendo anymore (remember at this stage I’d had a couple months off for my calf) and wants you to start again in April. He and the club miss you.” AW.
I said okay, because my calf was pretty well healed by now, but warned him I would be unfit. He waved his hand in front of his face (doesn’t matter) then mimed frantically looking through a book while speaking in Japanese.
“He says he used to study English before each club but now you don’t go anymore.”
I think this was the moment I realised I wasn’t just doing Kendo for a couple months to see what it was like, I was actually in it for the long haul, for better or worse. I could have said no and had a year and half of spare time to my name, but I couldn’t do it. I’m addicted.
We then chatted about his daughter and he said he had asked her about me but she didn’t know me. (Understandable, she’s at an elementary school – although you’d be surprised who sees me on my bike or says hello to me out and about and then goes home and tells their parents about it.) I showed him that I had “5 Rings” (A book by Miyamoto Musashi, arguably one of the best swordsmen who ever lived) in my handbag for reading on trains and he was happy. The science teacher I origionally was next to mourned the blisters on my hands, whereby my kendo teacher proudly told him my feet were even worse. He teacher then said “anytime you want to talk or drink, let him know.” Kendo teacher – “Zenzen (completely) let us know.” The heart swells.
Having it made it successfully through dinner and drinks (with one small moment where toilet slippers were pointed out as being still on my feet) without tears, I thought I was doing well at this event. But then. Some teachers hustled away and then came back in in procession, to give their closest leaving teachers a present each. We were witnessing the parting of best workplace friends – a sure tearjerker. The uppity little man who always tells the students I’m trying to distract to get back to their appointed cleaning, and bustles around with a notebook for Kocho Sensei, was a total wreck as he handed his flowers over. That was it for me. But there was more. We then formed a line of arches toward the door, where all the leaving teachers walked through sobbing openly and shaking hands. Of course me being me I would settle for no less than hugs from my favourites, and my JTE on seeing ME crying did a legitimate WAIL before falling into my arms.
We then all met back up outside the room (of course the parting was just symbolic, we still had second drinking party to go to) dried our eyes, and hopped on the bus to Obi together.
Nijikai (second drinking party) almost deserves an entire entry on its own. We had an entire upstairs room of a bar to ourselves, with drink choices being the standard beer or rice whiskey and water. I sat next to probably the funniest teacher I have met, who calls himself the “Sexual Harassment Promotion Committee”. It was our last night to hangout, and he was determined to make the most of it. I think this has been my favourite enkai so far, because there is a sense of recklessness in the leaving teachers, of not having to deal with consequences, and of course in us a desire to make their last night a great one/ create our final fond memories.
This teacher was determined that we drink to everything. An example. “Your happiness!” (cheers, drink.) “My happiness!” (repeat) “Kawatani Sensei’s happiness!” and so on. He told me this “Kawatani Sensei is silent but very strong spirit. Japanese beauty is not in face but in heart.” I told him his english was good and he said “I think many girls say a thing to be nice but not really mean it.” Haha. Wise guy. We talked about our mutual desire to know English/Japanese better, and how I want to talk to everyone but it’s hard because of wakarimasen. (I don’t understand.) I think it’s easy for them to forget that most of the time I have no idea what’s going on. It’s an odd situation to be getting used to. Our motto became “hanashite wakarimasen. Demo, kimochi, wakarimasu.” (I don’t understand the conversation but the feeling.)
He then pretended to fall on me, going “oh! Oh my god! Sexual Harassment!”
Kocho Sensei came and sat next to me at one point, gestured to all the teachers, his own staff, and said in English, “Animals. Wild animals.” We both cracked up. He then pointed out the “song thief” to me, who is a normally uppity member of staff who follows people with the microphone and joins in their songs, gradually taking over. He did it with about 5 songs in a row and couldn’t figure out why we were laughing so hard. Then Kocho sensei had a turn and busted out the best male enka voice I have heard. It was so good!
I then talked to Kimiyo Sensei for awhile, who was leaving my school for John’s in Takanabe. She mimed calling him on the phone, “John! Get out of bed. Come to school. – I will train him.” Haha.
I also walked in on my Kendo sensei in the toilet. I was talking to another teacher, and opened the wrong door. Squeaked and ran out. He strode out after, pointed at the door, said loudly, “GENTLEMEN” (one of 3 words he has ever spoken to me in English) and carried on up the stairs.
When we left we all stood out on the street saying our goodbyes, my friend from upstairs hugged me amidst yelling from all the other staff, then tried to kiss me to uproarious laughter. My Kendo teacher started berating him in Japanese (jokingly) and we all parted ways. I will miss these people, but I’m glad of the times they have given me.