Elementary School Recital

That title up there is kind of an abbreviated translation. I was trying to translate 学習発表会 (がくしゅうはっぴょうかい) and I think it is more of a “Presentation of Learning Event/Assembly.” <– I went to one of those on Sunday, 11/6!


The teachers this elementary school had invited my friend Tori when she was there teaching last semester. They called it a “recital” and told her it would start around 9am. Tori, Kyle and I got up early in the morning and drove out to the school. This school is in one of my favorite little towns surrounded by mountains.


They make things like this on the side of the cliff above the down to protect from landslides. It is quite a sight to see.

There is a large apple orchard literally next door to the school because the neighbors grow fruits and veggies on their land. I think they must have some sort of relationship with the school and I would imagine that the students help out sometimes. That is just my guess.

It turned out that the event actually started at 10am, so we had an hour to kill. We went downtown to the visitor’s center and gift shop. I bought some locally-grown fruits from there because they are very delicious and I like supporting the local economy of the less-well-off town. Plus their brown rice is inexpensive and delicious! 900 yen for 3 kg! Now that is a bargain.

Time was killed and we three returned to the school. We were treated like “honored guests” and were led to wait in a special room reserved for the other important guests of the school. Kyle made a funny by noting that we were probably “cheapening the experience” for the other elderly Japanese “honored guests” who were all dressed up in suits and their well-to-do outfits. Whoopsies. We were served tea and snacks while we waited for everyone else (the parents and families) to be seated in the auditorium. When we were led in, they told us to sit in the special seats off to the side. As we walked in, I said hello to a couple of the ladies and learned that she was the lady who lived in the house next door to the school! I asked if she was the one who grew the apples. She answered, “Yes, I’ll give you some! Grapes too.” …Hello generosity.

The assembly began just like any other Japanese assembly, with opening remarks from the principal and the class president. The 1st graders performed a rhythmic speech recitation about the seasons.


I was in awe at how much they were able to memorize. It was just incredible. The 2nd graders sung a song and did a dance for their presentation. The third grader boys did a balancing act (like creating human pyramids) and the girls did an AKB dance. The fourth and fifth graders performed a kids Soran Bushi dance. I have seen the Soran Bushi dance performed many times at Lewis & Clark College’s International Fair (in America), but this was the first time for me to see it in Japan and performed by little kids. They simplified the dance quite a bit, but I was still impressed.

The 6th graders did a bit of everything: a short-act play, singing, and dancing. For the finale, the whole school (all grades 1-6) performed two songs: a song called “100%勇気” (100% Courage) and also “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (虹の彼方に). I think some of the moms were crying over how beautiful the songs were.

After the whole performance was over, we were invited to stay for lunch that the principal had cooked for everyone! I was even able to snag some rice, cucumbers, pickles, and tomatoes. It was all very delicious. They gave me some tomatoes and cucumbers to take home. As we were leaving the woman who lived next door re-appeared with a huge grocery bag filled with apples, pears, and grapes for Tori, Kyle and I. I was floored! We said thank you very much… but wait, there’s more! She said if we were interested, she made little dolls wearing kimono and to come over to her house to come see. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by little dolls and kimono, but that was certainly something that interested me.

We said our thank-yous and good-byes to the school officials and went over to the woman’s house to say thank you as well for the fruit. She ended up inviting us into her house and to sit under her heated blanket-table (kotatsu) in her living room. We had tea and chatted for a half an hour! I asked her for her name and she wrote it down for me: Shouko. She was such a nice lady. Shouko gave me her number and told me that I could come over for tea any time I was in the area!

Oh, and dolls and kimono?


Adorable, huh?! She let us all pick one out to take home. …She makes these in her free time!

I love moments like this. I am not fluent in Japanese, but I try my best. Here in Japan I feel like a freaky alien for a lot of time, but every so often things like this will happen. I love being able to communicate with people and be able to make these kinds of connections. It gives me more confidence to talk to Japanese people. If I had not said hello to this one woman and asked her about her apples, we would have never received the fruit or gotten to speak to her at her home. Maybe I made a friend!

But most of all, I’m glad I wasn’t alone in experiencing this. I am so happy we were able to share the experience of going to the school recital, being invited for lunch, and going over to Shouko’s house. No matter how alien I feel, it is so important to me to have my American friends here who understand what it is like. I do not think I would like my cool little town as much as I do if it were not for the friendships I have made and the meaningful connections with people here.


One Comment to “Elementary School Recital”

  1. That doll is adorable! It sounds like a really fun experience all around. Kind of reminds me of the Talent Show my school put on when I worked in Korea, except that was a ridiculously extravagant affair because it was a private school.

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