Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, March 16, 2007

Should Old Fireflies Be Forg...Wait, What?

PTA daffodil1

The gentle sky has changed its mind,
And we wake to rain,
Thankful nonetheless;
The snow they warned of has not appeared.
‘Tis a good day for saying goodbye.

Four minutes late I leave my half-unbuilt house
At a full sprint,
My bloated bag, like an anvil in one hand,
My light, spring suit like feathers in the other.
Rush (Roll The Bones) jump-starts my mood,
But the farm truck at the head of the line
Is definitely not in any “rush”,
And I roll into Ye Olde Academy
Seven minutes too late.

PTA daffodil3

After the meeting
I duck into a darkened space to change.
My suit pants have an 81cm waist,
But, alas, my gut is now 85.
The jacket hides the jutting handles,
But only just.

All the teachers are in black;
In these islands,
The color of ceremony,
In my mind,
The color of ending.
But today is a new beginning,
Not an end,
For the ones saying goodbye.
The dawn of a new life,
A SPRING life.
Thus am I dressed in GREEN
As I do every year
(Even if it’s f*****g painful!)

The announcement is given,
The fanfare is played,
I give the signal to the guide as rehearsed,
But no one moves,
And the guide only gazes at me
With vacant eyes.
The signal is repeated more violently,
And the line at last heaves forward.
The 12th graders enter the auditorium
Bathed in wonderfully…torpid…applause.

PTA flowerbed3

Count the miniskirts and orange hair.
T’was something of a problem class,
Particularly the girls,
Many of them troubled,
Some even violent,
But most of them made it,
And now it’s time to say goodbye.

There are many former members
Of the music club in the line,
But they casually avoid my gaze,
As they do every year,
And as always I'm not sure why.

After the anthems of nation and school,
The orchestra flows away to its chambers.
Rushing downstairs, I open my pants
And heave a big sigh
As my handles deflate.
The speeches will take at least an hour;
Till then I’ll rest in comfort.

grad memorial2
Congratulatory messages sent to the graduates by elementary schools, businesses, politicians, etc.

Fifteen minutes before the mark
I squeeze my clothes shut again,
Sneak into a foyer,
Incline my ear,
And panic!
Running, I rally the troops.
The speech-givers, you see, were merciful this year,
And we are fully ten minutes
Ahead of schedule!

The kids find their places
And their chops.
We are ready when the announcement comes,
And we play “Aogeba Toutoshi” (仰げば尊し - “Revere those you look up to”),
The traditional song of parting
Twixt teacher and student,
And the tears begin to flow.
Then we start “Hotaru no Hikari” (蛍の光 – “The Light of Fireflies”,
Aka “Auld Lang Syne”),
And the seniors march away.
Their final task at Ye Olde Academy is done,
And their strange, new journey has just begun.

(Three years in a row I ended the tune
As the last soul left the gate,
But this year the timing was naught to be,
And we finished…five measures too late.
Better luck next year!)
(Now it’s time to chisel off this damned suit!)

The end of the road is the beginning: After the graduation ceremony, the seniors have the customary farewell gathering in the roundabout in front of the campus.


  • Nice flowers. I'm amazed that the plants are in full bloom even though the plants seem so small.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 7:35 PM  

  • How does the "Light of Dragonflies" go? I haven't heard it before. Does it use the same melody as Auld Lang Syne too?

    By Blogger YD, at 8:21 PM  

  • Love the spring flowers pics - maybe I can get snabby to take some of our yard before I raid it for the St. Pat's arrangements...

    Can't believe it, but in 3 short years, a little bean will be filing through whatever rented venue the Beaverton school district sees fit to parade Senior graduation....

    By Blogger ladybug, at 10:35 PM  

  • Happysurfer
    All the flowers in the pics I posted are growing in flowerbeds on our campus. Most of them are actually tended by students' parents as a PTA project, but some of them (namely the daffodils and the croci in a photo I put on my Webshots site but didn't post here) were planted either by students or teachers. I wouldn't be surprised if those smaller flowers were bought at a flower shop and transplanted.

    "Hotaru no Hikari" ("Light of Dragonflies") IS "Auld Lang Syne". It's the very same tune, but with Japanese lyrics. The content is a bit different, but the main point of the song is the same.

    One of the things I've always really liked about our campus is the wealth of flora all over the place. During most of the year it seems like you see a different color every week. Naturally, spring and early summer are the best, but autumn gets pretty colorful, too.

    Is Bean that old?!? Where does the time go? (Probably the same place as a lot of guys' hair...)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:24 AM  

  • Sorry, everyone! That should have been "Light of FIREflies". I regret the error and have corrected it.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:30 AM  

  • Minstrel waxes poetic once more.

    Is there a particular reason why graduation takes place so early in the spring in Japan?

    By Blogger Olivia, at 12:32 AM  

  • The poem is descriptive, funny, and poignant all at the same time. Graduation is an important event.
    Now do you have six weeks holiday?
    Nice pictures.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:24 AM  

  • Is it spring time already?

    It's still raining here in Jakarta...

    By Blogger Selba, at 10:02 AM  

  • Poignant is what came to my mind as well. Beautifully done, Moody.

    And wearing the green were ya then? A happy St. Patty's day too boot!

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 3:18 PM  

  • Olivia
    My muse was getting bored.

    Graduation happens now because the new school year (indeed Japan's business year) starts in April.


    The holiday is only about two weeks, but it's not really a holiday unless I want to burn up some of my paid vacation time (of which I fortunately have LOTS left over!).

    Like I mentioned in the post, we actually had a snow warning, mainly centering on Tokyo, but it didn't happen. just started raining again...and our new skylight is leaking.

    Nuts...I COMPLETELY FORGOT about SPD!!!! Considering the pride I have in my Irish roots, that's unforgivable! At least I have Guinness in the fridge...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:43 PM  

  • So nice flowers on yr campus =D

    By Anonymous angele, at 9:54 PM  

  • Let me get this straight. You put on a green suit that is five sizes too small, and didn't realize it was St. Patricks Day?

    On what other occasion then would you wear such a thing?

    By Blogger Pa've, at 4:20 AM  

  • i like the poem. good imagery... i could see all of it... even the tight suit! ;)

    are the miniskirts part of the school uniform? to mention the movie Babel again... the girls in that movie were wearing school uniforms like that. the skirts were SOOOO short and i wondered what was up w/ that. was it played up for the movie or do the girls actually wear their skirts that short? and i'm talking can see their butt cheeks short.

    By Blogger tooners, at 5:12 PM  

  • Angele
    One of the fringe benefits of working at Ye Olde Academy. :-)

    I've worn that same green-gray suit and tie when conducting the orchestra at the senior high graduation ceremony every year for the past six years. I bought it back in 1998 when my waist was still size 81(cm...about 32 inches). The trouble is that my gut has grown a bit since then. It gained at least an inch (2.5cm) when I was in Australia last summer, and my diet hasn't had much of an impact so far.

    Since about 1995 it has been common for senior high girls in Japan, particularly at public schools or "general curriculum" private schools, to wear really short skirts. Right around the turn of the century it was fashionable to wear them right at crotch level with an extra "outer" pair of panties worn underneath that could be seen "safely" (i.e. like tennis or cheerleader outfits). That trend seems to be easing a bit, and skirt lengths are starting to drop again, but miniskirts are still common among senior high girls. (And they wonder why they suffer so much sexual harassment and groping? Like, HELLO?!!!!? If you don't like being treated like a sex toy, WHY DO YOU DRESS LIKE ONE??!?)

    "Academic course" private schools like mine tend to be much stricter about that sort of thing, so the really short skirts have never appeared at Ye Olde Academy, but some of the socialite girls with a bit more of a chip on their shoulders do tend to wear them quite a bit higher than the "just above the knee" rule.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:58 PM  

  • I would like to see you in your green suit;-) But maybe you should break down and buy one that fits! Of course if you only wear it once a year, grin and bear it.

    Somewhere amongst us we had a lime green bowler derby that would have gone well with that!

    By Blogger Pa've, at 4:07 AM  

  • HA! I just had a way cooler idea.

    Since you mentioned you are Irish, and miniskirts are popular in Japan, perhaps you should consider wearing a kilt!

    By Blogger Pa've, at 4:16 AM  

  • LOL @ Pa've - Minstrel wearing a kilt would amuse the Japanese no end!

    I can't get over the short skirts with unders. Mind you, watching an old episode of Star Trek, I realised it would be so embarrassing if the women bent over - the shift dresses were more like long shirts. So weird to think that fashion originated 40 years ago!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 10:28 AM  

  • lucky u for having spring there..i thought spring was going to happen here but it snowed all day so bah! nice pictures..reminded me of my graduation not so long ago *sigh*...

    By Blogger memo, at 10:29 AM  

  • Pa've
    I'd probably be arrested. It's a given that no one here would understand.

    Don't be eggin' Pa've on, m'lady!

    The women's uniforms in Star Trek TOS were referred to as "tunics". I thought they were summed up best in the episode of Deep Space Nine where they went back in time to the TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles":

    Capt. Sisko: "In this era command wore gold, engineering wore red..."
    Lt. Dax: (offscreen)"And women wore less!" (Enters dressed in the old-style uniform and does a sexy S-curve.)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:56 PM  

  • Memo
    Spring is here, but it isn't. It's really bizarre. It's like we skipped from October to February, but February just won't end. Spring first appeared way early, and all the flowers and creatures are coming out, but we're still stuck in mid-February temperatures (i.e. freezing at night, 10-12 degrees C during the day).

    That's still better than -30, though!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:59 PM  

  • Hey Moody,

    Same here, we've been experiencing violent temperature changes. I love it though, it matches my mood swings. :)


    By Blogger Leilouta, at 11:04 AM  

  • Leilouta
    Hello, and good to see you! A lot of us were worried that you'd gone into hiding after your last blog post!

    Uh, oh...has life been making you extra moody these days, too?

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:40 PM  

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