I was expecting a baptism of fire when I got here, and I wasn't disappointed...a mere 10 hours after my Wish! welcome party was over, I was racing East on the Yamanote Line to Osaki and my first official scheduled placement. I would be spending two days at Koseki Jidookan – a kids centre in the middle of a smart business district, which operates as both after school club and a place for mothers to bring their tinies and socialise and play together. I was a little bit worried about speaking Japanese all day, and whether any of my props and preparation were actually AT ALL appropriate. Eep!
I needn't have worried. All of the staff were kind and fun and very patient with the fact that both they and I had to go round for the whole day chained to our language dictionaries. My English books were very successful with the mothers in the morning: they were delighted that there was a native English speaker there who could both tell stories in English and explain a bit about them in Japanese. They practiced their English a bit with me, I practiced my Japanese (erk) and everyone was happy. My dramatised retelling of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR (in Japanese, HARAPEKO AOMUSHI) put me in Koseki's 'Crazy Gaijin' hall of fame.
I'm fine with that.
Conversation VERY quickly dried up at lunch when I ran out of things I actually knew how to say, and I was happy to escape and buy my first book in a Japanese bookshop!
Well, I went crazy and bought three.
In the afternoon, my name cards found their vocation in life as a MASSIVE hit with the kids. The exchanging of 'Meishi' is a terribly important ritual here in Japan, and so even playing at that sort of exchange implies a respect for them I just can't get across with my Japanese at the momet. Hurrah!
The Canadian International School was just across the road and kids poured in at about 3, speaking a fantastic mixture of about 5 or 6 different languages. Lots of them were keen to meet me, and I persuaded five of them to give me Japanese lessons. Score! The only down side to the day was that I lost a game of table tennis VERY BADLY INDEED. After a few minutes of running around after balls he'd hit past me, the 8 year old boy I was playing just said 'I'm done'. And walked off. I would have done the same if I was him.
I got over the shame only moments later when I learned how to walk 'Takeuma': Japanese stilts. The kids laughed at my first botched attempts, but once I got my balance, and I got it fast, I was racing around with the best of them. Ha!