Working hard: School culture festival

One of the many things to see at school culture festival: ikebana, Japanese flower arrangements!

My apologies to everyone who has wondered why I don’t post anything about teaching on here. I have talked about the grand traveling adventures we have, and some less grand everyday adventures, but I’ve neglected to share about what is perhaps one of the craziest adventures of all: teaching. So for this post I will give a bit of a window into the Japanese high school life. Granted, this is no average day (or week) in the life, but it was definitely a fun few days…

Possibly one of the best, if not the best, events in Japanese schools is the annual culture festival. With their classes and/or clubs, the students do performances, host events in their classrooms, display things they’ve made, and sell festival food. Most of the teachers are pretty involved too, and this year I was part of two different performances. In one I was a vocalist for the teacher’s band performing “We Will Rock You,” and in the other, on my birthday no less, I donned a red dress and danced alongside other teachers to the Guitar Mandolin club’s rendition of a Japanese children’s song, “Maru Maru Mori Mori.” Here are some highlights from the festival:


On the first day, the school band started off the show, which involved, among other things, the boys’ baseball team donning girls uniforms (with VERY short skirts) and doing a dance. Science fact: guys in Japan love cross-dressing.

After that the teacher’s band took away the show. For my part, we did a rendition of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Performing “We Will Rock You” – picture’s a little blurry but you get the idea.

The next day, for part of the Guitar Mandolin club’s performance, myself and several other teachers donned costumes and did a dance. Here’s the original dance on YouTube, in case you’re interested. We started off trying to dress like the original kids, with girls in red dresses and guys in shorts with a bowtie, but it went kind of downhill, as you can see from our group photo:

The dancers after the show. We have a… construction worker? A guy in an old lady dress, a guy in a female nurse costume, a guy in a child-killing bear costume, and… me in a red dress. Quite the motley assortment, it’s like the new age of The Village Boys or something.

My dance buddy and I in action.

Ending pose! By the way, if you think you saw a donkey-like creature in the background, you were not deceived. The leader donned a donkey head and wielded a magic star wand to conduct.

Regardless of how silly our dance was, the kids loved it, and I love the Guitar Mandolin club, as they are super talented. After my performances were over, I could finally relax and enjoy the rest of the festival. I watched the third year class performances (they compete for best performance, and some of them can get pretty creative, mixing dance and story). There were guest comedians, student bands, the hip hop dance team, and a taiko group from the local special needs school. The best part was when the comedians asked the audience who was the most popular boy in school, then they brought him up on stage, and asked the audience again (the school is about 90% female students) who had a crush on him. A couple of my first year girls raised their hand, and were brought on stage to publicly confess their love to him, in exchange for a signature card. His response was priceless: “let’s be friends.” Ah, young love.

Student exhibitions

My school has a lot of creative clubs, from Ikebana (flower arranging) to Shodo (calligraphy), and illustration and art clubs. Here are some of the exhibit highlights:

This is one of the runner-up program covers, printed on the inside of the actual program. I liked it best, partly because I think the person in the middle is inspired by me. I’m the only one in the school with that hair, after all!

Ikebana – Japanese flower arrangement

One of my favourite arrangements.

Is it a flower arrangement… or a heart-shaped cake? The fork is an interesting accessory.

Ikebana donut!

One of the displays involved embroidery designs.

This was one of my favourite designs, because it reminded me of snowflakes!

There was also a ceramics display – here is a Hello Kitty mug!

Finally, shodo, or Japanese calligraphy!

Last but definitely not least: food and activities!

All the classes and some of the clubs had food and activities prepared for the last day of the festival. Some of the classrooms had been transformed into “Horror houses,” fair-style game rooms, a fortune telling room, an instant photo booth-style room, and even a balloon room. My first stop of the day was tea ceremony.

At the tea ceremony: before tea, you get a small sweet to eat, purposefully arranged on a small ceramic dish.

After that, a nice cup of matcha. There’s something about turning the cup a certain direction, so you don’t drink from the side that has a design, or so other people see the design while you drink, or something. It’s all very confusing. I probably wouldn’t pass at a normal tea ceremony, but it’s school festival, so I’m safe.

After tea ceremony I headed to the food. There were a lot of different options, mainly traditional Japanese festival stuff: yakisoba, ramen, franks, karaage, and okonomiyaki. But there were a few more interesting ones too. Tropical juice was my favourite, it had little jellies in the bottom kind of like bubble tea. However, the booth with my favourite marketing was the franks, or “The Furanku.” They had the coolest poster, and a signboard that made their homeroom teacher their mascot.

The Frank poster. It’s like some crazy mafia guy holding knives in his fingers, but instead he’s holding franks!

Here is “The Furanku” booth’s signboard, a cartoon rendition of their homeroom teacher eating franks!

After I had my stomach happily full of food, I took a stroll down the homeroom hallways to check out the activities. Some of the horror houses were pretty creative; the most creative and disturbing one was, in my opinion, the Lady Gaga Horror House. I wasn’t the only one who thought this, as they actually won the prize for best classroom activity. As you entered, you were plunged into darkness. Loud Lady Gaga music blared, and the only things you could see as you felt your way through the maze was what had been illuminated by small lights for you, such as discombobulated, bleeding barbie dolls, and the occasional “ghost” in a Lady Gaga wig jumping out to scare you, touch you, and otherwise make you feel very uncomfortable… It was possibly the most horrifying experience I’ve ever had in a Japanese classroom.

The sign outside of the Lady Gaga horror house.

One of the other rooms was a balloon theme. I was confused about most of what the students were telling me to do, especially when they gave me a water balloon to throw out the window. But I got a pink balloon sword out of the deal so it’s all good.

Well, that’s about all I have for pictures. Since I can’t put pictures of students on the internet, I have pretty limited selection, but you get the idea! I worked very hard during the four days of the festival, singing and dancing and eating and screaming in fear. See, teaching is fun!


3 thoughts on “Working hard: School culture festival

  1. Awesome possum. I would like to see a HS level event once. The Elementary and JH events are fun, but the art is at a different level. The Gloomy costume was great. Gloomy the bear was just becoming popular when I first arrived here.

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