by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad participant
The day begins and ends with homeroom, each about twenty minutes. Classes start at 9:00 a.m. There are seven periods, each fifty minutes long, with alternating five and ten minute breaks in between. The breaks are nice. In the ten minute break before lunch, everyone eats a little bit of their lunch before class. Food is not allowed during class, but is okay otherwise. We also eat lunch in the classroom. The class schedule is very different from in America. The classes depend on the day, and we sometimes also have double periods. In every class, we bow to the teacher, saying Onegaishimasu (please), and Domo gozaimashita (thank you).
The classes themselves are also very different. I take Religion (this is a Catholic school), and Health, as well as something called Communications, which is like a class for practicing English. Classes are almost always in a lecture format, with occasional student participation. I have yet to do any group work, and students usually take notes in class.
After classes end, I go to homeroom and then we clean the school. Some students clean the classroom, while other students (including me), clean a different room, which is assigned weekly. Last week, we cleaned one of the home economics’ rooms, and this week we are cleaning a bathroom. I think this is why my school in Japan seems much cleaner than the school I went to in America. Perhaps students take more care to pick up after themselves when they know they will cleaning it up later. There is certainly no gum on the undersides of the desks, as there is in most American schools.
After souji (cleaning), I go up to the fourth floor to meet my host sister. I then usually do homework or hang out with my host sister and her friends. They talk and joke around. In the past few days, I have come up the stairs to find them playing hide and seek. I guess that translates across cultures.
Finally, it is time to go home. We walk to the bus stop, but t is a very short distance, and I enjoy the (mostly) cool weather. We usually get on the second bus, which comes at 6:05. That way we can sit down. In the afternoon, my feet hurt, and I am always happy when my host sister and her friend want to wait for the second bus. The bus, which is a city bus with the Shirayuri Gakuen (my school) insignia painted on the side, is always exactly on time. It is true that you can set your watch by Japanese public transportation. The bus ride is long, about an hour. When we reach the bus station, it is 7:00 p.m. We then take the city bus to our station.
From the station to our house it is probably a thirty minute walk. School only lasts seven and a half hours, but by the time we finally arrive at home we have been gone for about 13 hours. Once we arrive at home, my host sister and I change out of our uniforms. Japanese students are very careful to take car of their school uniforms. I have even been issued a pale blue smock (which reaches past my knees, and is more like a nightgown than a smock) to keep my uniform clean in the classroom. Most students wear this.
The family cooks dinner together. Some days I help make dinner, and some days I have to wash dishes. Dinner is always delicious. After dinner, I do my homework, and practice my violin. The entire family hangs around the table at night, doing their respective tasks. This happens even on weekends, when we usually watch TV. Sometimes we even have a little snack.
Finally, I shower and go to bed. Japanese people always shower at night, never in the morning. Sometimes members of my family like to soak in the bathtub after showering, but I do not. I am always too tired to take a bath. Also, the one time I did bathe, I had trouble breathing because of the steam. It was not an enjoyable experience. When I’m done, I lay out my futon, put on pajamas, and go to bed. Usually, I am so tired I fall right to sleep.