The End of an Era

First and last visit of the year to Namioka Special Needs school

Japan as a nation have decided that March is the end of a school/ work year . April, a fresh start, maybe to mirror spring and a new beginning.

Graduation and goodbyes came flooding this week, and quite unexpectedly too. On Monday it was Nishi Koko graduation, I put on my black formal suit but walking to school I felt off balance and out of sync. I had it in my diary of course but mentally I had not believed it. March is just another month in my calendar, one that is before April and so to me it is the end of winter, that’s about it (and St.Patricks day of course). I felt unaccepted into this big ‘end’ that everyone else was stuck in. Think of the feeling of finishing school in May and then put your calendar to March, it’s like a dream where you have mixed everything, I could not grasp it at all.

The school was bursting with flower arrangment for the graduation ceremony




Nishi Koko Graduation


I forgot that students would be leaving, leaving and never coming back. I hadn’t thought of watching them farewell the school with tears streaming down their faces. They do a great job of setting up an atmosphere of sadness, very formal yet very patriotic.

At the ceremony the home room teachers call each of their students for the very last time. Students must answer and stand to represent their thanks to their parents / classmates and teachers. All they say is ‘hai’ (yes) but the way they shout it and rise so quickly and confidently gives it a very sentimental feeling. Then they belt out their school song for the very last time, I had never heard my school song until I graduated, it meant nothing to me but they knew this song off by heart and had sung it for the past 3years, this was followed by the Japanese national anthem. The speech made by the leader of their year reminds them all of what happened through the years, places they went, tests they completed, matches they won/lost, I didn’t understand it but could feel the sadness especially surrounded by both students and teachers quietly weeping.

Red and White, the colors of graduation.

All the teachers received these graduation gifts from the school; bean paste buns with the school logo


The last part I’ll admit cracked me. The home room teachers stand on stage in a line, the students rise to their feet, bow together and loudly chant ‘otsukaresama deshita’ which translates to ‘thank you so much for all your hard work and efforts’, the teachers respond with force and bow back. Then one row at a time the students stand, repeat the chant, the teachers respond together and the rows file out. Such a heartfelt and emotional way of saying ‘thanks a mil teacher’ all infront of the rest of the school students/ teachers and parents. The home room teachers stood tall on stage with tears on their faces as they continuously bowed, it was touching to see them so broken.

Myself and Noda Sensei (my supervisor) on graduation day


One student since I have arrived here has come to my desk every other day, to say hello and have a chat, she is the sweetest girl. She arrived into the staff room on Monday afternoon and it suddenly dawned on me I may never see her again. Megumi handed me a letter and said she was too upset to say good bye in person so she wrote to me instead.

 I wish I had prepared myself for all the farewells, but I have been truly stuck in the western March.


Megumi's letter



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