And Emperor Komei Said, “Learn To Read!”

Recently, the senior high school that I’m teaching English at here in Japan just celebrated its 150th anniversary. That’s right 150 years of providing education to the people of Totsukawa village. That’s definitely something to be proud of.

Especially when you were the first high school in Japanese history to be built from an Emperor’s direct order. Oh, and did I mention it is the only school in Japan to ever be directly asked for by an Emperor? You know, no big deal.


During the day of this anniversary, all of us teachers had to be on our very best behavior and wrangle in all the students to look pretty and civil for the alumni and government guests.2014-10-31 11.46.54The celebratory events took place in in the school gymnasium where we teachers and the students had prepared a little exhibit area quartered off from the main seating area.

Above, you can see a picture of one of the exhibits that displayed the orders for the construction of the high school. Built by order of Emperor Komei in 1864, many of the principles and classes from the past were displayed across the gymnasium hall.

However, like I said, the exhibit was closed off for the beginning of the day, due to speeches. The first four hours of the day we listened to speeches from a famous Japanese author, the various representatives of Totsukawa’s Board of Education and some of the students. I pretty much only understood a few words here and there…a few amerikas…..a few watashis….and maybe a few sumimasen, sumimasen, sumimasens.

Afterwards, busts of…well, apparently important people…were showcased outside, in front of the school. 2014-10-31 11.55.18Soon after, the guests were quickly herded into the exhibit area to feast on a literal smorgasbord of food and drink. Totsukawa does NOT hold anything back.2014-10-31 12.09.23Now, I was told that we teachers weren’t allowed to eat or drink anything. That being said, two nice ladies wouldn’t take no for an answer and forced a glass of apple juice into my hand for the beginning kempai. Yes, it was actually just apple juice.

Following the kempai, people just dove straight in. It was also time for the students to start preparing the mochi.

Garbed in hoppis and yukatas for the boys and girls respectively, each student began form the rice that they had so painstakingly pounded away at, into little balls of mochi to be served up to the guests.

Japanese customs, man.

Later, a visiting Taiko group from Tenri Senior High School put on a performance for everybody in the gymnasium. They even brought some of my students and fellow teachers up to perform the more basic songs. Yes, I was up there.

Here’s a video of one of their performances:

It was all rather exciting, but it did seem to end pretty quickly. There’s good news now, though. We, the teachers, can now eat!

We had been provided bento lunch boxes beforehand, but apparently we were allowed to have whatever food was leftover from the event, as well. Man, you should have seen our eyes as we circled the tables like vultures, picking off bits and pieces here and there.

There was lobster, sashimi, nigiri, sushi, pork ribs, pasta, curry, all kinds of fruits, and even desserts. Needless to say, the caterers didn’t need to throw anything away.

After all the events and food from the anniversary, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad the next day. Why couldn’t every day be like that?


Categories: Japan, JET, Nara Prefecture, Totsukawa - muraTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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