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Immersion in Japan ☆ My Daughter’s First Experience at Japanese Elementary School

July 21, 2013

First Day of Immersion in Japan 3日本語訳は英文の後

My three kids have dual nationalities. They are a Japanese national from me and an American national from my husband. What is their identity or identities? It’s hard to say because they live neither in Japan nor in the United States. They have lived in the third country in the past 3 years and will do so again in the next 3 years, which I find very valuable for them. We keep both Japanese and English languages spoken at home as I speak to my kids in Japanese and my husband speaks to them in English. We try to keep the Japanese and American cultures at home as much as possible although I don’t do a very good job with the Japanese culture… Keeping double cultures requires a lot of efforts on parent’s part, in our case, my part.

This summer I was able to realize one of my dreams for some time: to send my child to a Japanese school for an immersion experience during summer. My first daughter went to a Japanese school for 2 weeks when we visited and stayed with my family in Tokyo this summer. Her international school finished the school year at the beginning of June, but Japanese schools do not start their summer vacation until the end of July, so she was able to go to a Japanese school in June. She joined the third grade based on her age in the Japanese school system and sat in the classroom with other third graders from 8:20 in the morning until 2:20 or on some days until 3:20.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 2

My main goal for the short immersion at a Japanese school was to have my daughter learn what it is like to be in a Japanese school and hopefully foster an identity as a Japanese. Since my daughter has only gone to an international school and in their school system, she had just finished a 2nd grade in June. Academically she was behind compared to her classmates in Japan. On top of that she does not know how to write or read in Japanese. Therefore, I did not expect her to do well academically in school. I was just happy that she ate the school provided lunch with Japanese friends, cleaned the classroom with her fellow classmates, and participated in activities just like other Japanese children. She learned how to write Japanese alphabets. She learned a Japanese song. She made new friends and learned a few Japanese slang. My daughter does not love school work, so she didn’t enjoy having homework, but she still did her homework. I found it simply a blessing that she went to school for 2 weeks with a smile on her face. I’m okay if she still doesn’t know all of the Japanese alphabets or doesn’t know how to read in Japanese. After having finished the 2-week long immersion, she has gained many valuable experiences.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 5

I am not very proactive about educating my children extra skills or knowledges at home although sometimes I wish I could. I have not been able to teach any Japanese holidays or events at home other than New Year’s. My excuse especially now is that my youngest is very young and requires a lot of work. The truth is that it is a dedication to keep a culture in a family when you live overseas away from your own culture not to mention we have another culture that we keep at home. Only thing I do consistently at home is to talk to all my kids in Japanese and only in Japanese, which I find not enough. Thus this immersion for my daughter was special to me. It was a cultural experience that I haven’t been able to provide my daughter at home.

I owe this to my parents especially to my dad. It was my dad who contacted the local board of education to ask about the paper work and requirements. He also went to the elementary school to talk to the principal prior to our arrival. He and my mom were very supportive to make this immersion happen. I cannot thank them enough for that.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 1

私の子供たちは、3人共二重国籍を持っています。私から日本の国籍を受け継ぎ、夫からはアメリカの国籍を受け継いでいます。でも彼らのアイデンティティは何かと言ったら、正直分かりません。過去の3年間、彼らにとっては第三国に住み、これからの3年もまた第三国に住むことになります。大変ではありますが、子供達にとって、貴重な体験をさせてくれる環境であると感じます。家庭では、私が子供達に日本語で話しかけ、子供達も日本語で返答しますし、夫とは英語での会話をするので、2カ国語の環境を作っています。また日本とアメリカの両方の文化を家庭で教えようとしていますが、残念ながら、日本の文化の方は疎かになっています。家庭で2つの文化を保つのには親の努力、うちの場合、私の努力が必要なんですよね。

今年の夏、ある夢を叶える事が出来ました。娘を日本の小学校に体験入学をさせる事が出来ました!娘のインターナショナルスクールが夏休みに入った後、日本に一時帰国し実家にお世話になっている間、2週間という短い間でしたが、長女が日本の学校に通いました。日本の学校では3年生の年齢であるため、3年生のクラスに入れていただき、朝は8時20分から午後2時20分、時には3時20分まで学校に行っていました。

今回の体験入学の一番の目的は、日本の小学校に通った事の無い長女が日本の学校がどういうところであるかという事を経験し、少しでも日本人としての意識を育んでもらうという事でした。インターナショナルスクールの制度上では年齢的に2年生を終わらせたばかりであったため、学力的には3年生のレベルよりは劣っていましたし、日本語は話せても、読み書きが出来ないので、学力の面では期待をしませんでしたし、プレッシャーも掛けませんでした。日本人学校で給食を食べ、学校のお掃除に参加し、他の子と一緒に学校の活動に参加してくれただけで満足でした。ひらがなは本人の名前以外知らなかった彼女が、平仮名を習い、日本の歌を習って好んで歌い、新しい日本人の友達を作って子供が使う日本語の表現を習って来ました。勉強が元々好きでは無い娘なので、宿題はあまり嬉しくなかった様ですが、それでもちゃんと宿題をし、笑顔で学校に毎朝通ってくれた事は親としてこれ以上無い喜びでした。未だに平仮名を全部覚えていないですし、日本語を読めません。それでも、この2週間の体験入学を通し、何にも変えられない貴重な体験を得ました。

私は家庭では宿題を手伝ってあげる以外、子供達の教育に時間を費やしてあげられていません。家庭でもお正月以外あまり子供に日本の文化的な事も教えてあげられてないのが現状です。現在の言い訳は、末っ子の息子がまだ幼くとても手がかかるので、時間が無いという事なのですが、正直な所、家庭で文化を教えるには親の時間と努力を要します。ましてや日本から離れて生活をし、家庭で夫の国の文化も保っているので、より私の努力が必要と感じます。それなので、今回の体験入学は私が家庭で子供に与えられないとても貴重な体験を子供に与えてもらえ、嬉しい気持ちで一杯です。

今回こうやって体験入学ができたのも、両親の協力のお陰でした。父が教育委員会へ足を運んで手続きを調べてくれたり、小学校へ出向いて校長先生と会い、話を進めてくれたお陰で、私たちが一時帰国した直後、スムーズに体験入学を始める事が可能になりました。父も母も、娘の体験入学を応援してくれました。感謝してもしきれないと感じます。

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2013 6:15 am

    What a wonderful experience for your daughter! I think for any child to be exposed to other cultures…even if it’s not a culture that belongs to them…is an important lesson just to show kids that there’s another way of doing things.
    My daughter in college will study abroad in Barcelona Spain next year and I can’t wait for her to have that experience!

    • July 22, 2013 9:10 am

      Thanks, The Savvy Sister!! Good luck to your daughter in her new adventure in Barcelona, Spain! I am very excited for her! That’s going to be an amazing experience!

  2. July 22, 2013 8:29 am

    What a fantastic opportunity Kaho! Looks like your daughter enjoyed it!!! You are a fantastic mom, Kaho. I can see all your children embracing the Japanese and American in them. We miss you!

  3. July 23, 2013 9:51 pm

    your daughter is adorable! this sounds like such a fantastic experience.

    • July 23, 2013 9:54 pm

      Thanks, Shoko!!! I hope she will appreciate her experience!

  4. Joy permalink
    July 26, 2013 7:29 am

    So wonderful to hear she loved the experience, Kaho! Thanks for sharing with us. As always, great photos!

  5. August 6, 2013 10:20 am

    We are an english/japanese family with a four and a half year old daughter in an international kindergarten – she is bilingual but slightly better at japanese – her ‘mother tongue’. We would like to eventually send her to a local japanese elementary school, but would like to find one which has a few ‘mixed race’ children like her, so that she doesn’t feel too self conscious. We live in Setagaya-ku, between Sangenjaya and Ikenoue, Does anyone have any suggestions of elementary schools that might be suitable? Or, are there families like us out there in Setagaya who we should ‘team up with’ in two years time, and all join the same school together?

    • August 7, 2013 12:37 pm

      I imagine that there are mixed kids like your daughter in Setagaya-ku because that where many expats also live. However, I am not familiar with the area and I cannot help you with the information. I wonder if there is any mother’s group for mixed marriage children who reside in Tokyo. If there is one, I’m sure that would be very resourceful.

  6. August 19, 2013 1:07 am

    Hello Kaho! I am following your journey with much interest although I don’t often take the time to leave a comment! As you know I am in the same situation as you, and I try to keep French alive at home as much as I can. My mum is sending me stuff often when there is a special celebration, and we also try to spend almost two months in France every summer, which I find invaluable. My kids pick up their French skills there every year as they are forced to speak in the language with the other kids.
    You are doing a good job, maybe you can team up with other Japanese mums to celebrate the many traditions throughout the year? I find that there are so many still alive in Japan, it’s been fantastic!

    • August 19, 2013 12:47 pm

      Marie, thank you so much for leaving me a comment! I wish I had a chance to learn French when I was very little. Your kids will appreciate it so much when they grow up. I find it very difficult to use French unless you’re in a Francophone country, so my French has gotten so rusty! I hope to keep a Japanese culture around my kids, but that depends on me. Sigh. We have to keep encouraging each other on this topic!

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