Busy Weekends

J is in the second of three years of junior high school. That's as far as mandatory education goes in Japan and, although public high school education is available, entry to high school, public or private, is determined by rigorous entrance exams. This means that there is a variety of schools to choose from and that most of the nice ones are a bus or train ride away. It also means that J needs to check out a few schools to see what she wants and figure out where to focus her studying over the next year and a half until the entrance exams (each school has their own $300 entrance exam so we'll try to whittle it down to a challenging school and a shoo-in). Hopefully she can qualify for and want to attend the better public schools as they only cost about $2,500 a year in tuition and other costs plus whatever the textbooks will cost that year. Private schools are three to four or more times that plus fees for uniforms.

Last weekend many schools had open house / school festival events so we went to three high schools in three days to do our scouting a little early. There were many anxious looking 9th graders checking out the schools as well. They'll be taking exams in early February for April matriculation. Of course we had to take N and L with us and there were lots of fun things for them to enjoy while we checked out each campus. Some of the classes had organized games or scare house fun.

L insisted on going through the haunted house at one school but begged me to go with him. We were handed a flash light and directed into a dark classroom where all sorts of things popped up in front of us as we made our way through, thoroughly scaring him. The "ghosts," all 10th graders, had trouble not smiling when they saw how cute he was, so it wasn't all that terrifying though. One even apologized for jumping out a few seconds too early. "Boo! ...Ooops, sorry." M didn't have track practice that day, so she came along with us and seemed to be inspired by how fun high school looked and how outgoing the students there were. She'll have to work a little harder if she wants to go there because it is one of the more competitive schools to enter around here. Somehow a picture of me in my beanie at the PTA coffee shop showed up on the school's website. Ugh!

The kids got to try tea ceremony at another school and learn more about taking trains to get around. We stopped by a station with a discount shoe store on the way home on Sunday and got L equipped for his fall season of running away from all the girls and had lunch at a cheap spaghetti restaurant where N spilled a large iced tea all over herself and the floor, prompting the kind staff to quickly mop the floor where she then proceeded to noisily drop her silverware. Wet and embarrassed, she was a perfect little lady for the rest of the meal and we bought her a new outfit at the post-summer clearance at UniQlo nearby. $5.00 for a skirt and a T-shirt and she even looked like a little lady. I carried her raggy and wet favorite sportswear home in a plastic bag.

The next day, N forgot her "handbag" on the train on our way to the Tokyo Metropolitan International High School causing a slight delay. The stationmaster told us that the cleaners would check the train at the end of the line and he took my name and a description of the dollar shop bag and advised us to stop by on our way back through the station later that day. The bag was found and placed in the lost and found at that end of the train line, in Chiba prefecture, a mere two hour detour..."Ah, I think I'll pick it up before my IV tomorrow because it is closer to the hospital and I can't be late for class today..." got a sad nod. She was having a tough weekend with all of these learning experiences...

Of course the next morning I had to leave for the hospital on a later train than usual because S was away and I had to make sure that everybody was up and ready to go off to school before I left so I decided to make the detour on my way home instead. I managed to get to the hospital by 8:30 and my doctor saw me at the reception desk on his way by so he went and got my files to approve them and send me on my way for treatment before his first appointment. I was finished by 1:00 p.m. and back on the train soon after.

A few stops, a transfer and 20 minutes or so later found me at the very far end of our train line where N's bag, complete with about $30 and her library card, was waiting for me to sign for and take home. There was also a vegetable stand right in the station selling the local produce so I bought some nice big potatoes for baking and a big bag of fresh tomatoes for a very good price. The cheap and fresh veggies made up for the extra train fare and I was back home by 3:00, a few minutes before L walked in the door from school.

N was very happy that her bag came home and only complained about a few pieces of origami paper she thought might be missing. All were happy with their baked potatoes for dinner. Next weekend we'll visit a few more schools and spend some time at the Shinto Fall Festival in the street near our house on Sunday.