In Japan hitting 60years old means retirement, no ways around it, 60years old it is. Well actually you can do a maximum of two extra years but at 60 you are officially retired and given your send off. At Nishi KoKo the principle and two other teachers are retiring this year and so an enkai was held in their honor. There was an endless amount of speeches where I laughed when they laughed and clapped when they clapped, completely oblivious but strangely I enjoyed it all and was happy to bask in the atmosphere they were creating. The teachers were often paraded on the stage and presented with beautiful flowers, gifts and cards, there was even some teachers doing a dance to a pop song which was strange but very entertaining. Then what really threw me was next.
Nothing could have prepared me for this almost tribal act that was performed. The retiring teachers were displayed on stage while the head of second grade very ceremoniously removed his dinner jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves and cleared his throat. I was so eager to know what was about to happen, wondering what on earth he was going to do that needed so much undressing. Then, then he let out an impressive roar and began to flay his arms around like crazy. I was in such shock that I just stood there amazed while letting out a few nervous giggles. The teacher continued to chant and fly his arms around like some sort of crazy chimp so I leant to the teacher beside and asked ‘Is this normal?’ But before she could answer the whole room burst into unionized clapping. I had to use all my concentration to try to follow and copy the lot of them, terrified of clapping when I shouldn’t. This ceremony act was given to each retiring member so I eventually got the slight hang of it and enjoyed the bizarreness a lot.
After the chanting we all formed an arch way for the retiring teachers to crawl through and out the door to end the enkai. It felt like I was at a party of my childhood when you make an archway and trap people when the music stops, the music continued but I was still encouraged by my arch partner to trap and squeeze the principle, felt a little nervous but it was all in good spirit so I just laughed it off like everyone else.
Another experience to add to the ‘wow that was so weird’ list or as some people say ‘only in Nippon’
I asked the teacher if I could record the last one, although it’s through a crowd you can occasionally see the flaying and can definitely hear the chanting. Don’t worry I asked the school and head cheerleader if I could post this. Turns out he was on the Japanese cheer squad in university hence his professionalism and extreme enthusiasm, without him this act would not have been possible so he is my new hero.