A couple of weeks ago, I was at my littlest elementary school (18 students, grades 1-6) for an afternoon class. This is rather unusual, since I usually end up at this school early, early in the morning. I actually prefer that – it took me until sophomore year of college to realize that ‘Early Bird’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word (phrase?), but I have embraced it fully.
The Japanese school day, through junior high, has six class periods (45 minutes each in elementary, 50 in junior high). I was actually surprised to learn this because starting in fifth grade, I had seven periods a day. School went until 3PM as a matter of course, 2:30PM on Fridays. In Otobe, only the junior high school goes for six periods every day (usually). The sixth graders are out after fifth period at least once per week, it seems, and the first graders never have sixth period. This makes the small elementary schools interesting in the afternoons, since the class are combined 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, and 5th/6th – I’m used to small classes, but it’s odd when one half of the class goes home early and you happen upon a teacher going over a new math lesson with his two second graders.
Anyway, after I finished up this fifth period class, the fifth and sixth graders all immediately started putting on aprons and masks, like they do before serving lunch in the classroom. I was actually deeply confused about the time for a moment, before they marched out of the classroom and into the home ec room.
Which was full of buckets of dead fish.
Probably not something you’d see in America everyday.
The kids were pretty game to try cutting up the fish properly, though they all went pale when the man who had come to teach them explained that the best way to get a grip on the slippery fish was to grasp the head with their left hand and punch their thumb through the eye socket.
Y(fifth-grade girl): Teacher, do we really…?
Teacher: Would you rather slice open your hand?
They started off pretty well, considering that the fisherman who had showed them how to cut them open did it in about 45 seconds and only vaguely differentiated between what fish innards should be saved and which should be discarded. This is why I don’t eat protein prepared by anyone under the age of 14.
The biggest complaint I heard was about how cold the fish were. Okay, and about sticking thumbs into eye sockets. I snapped a few pictures and left before anyone lost any fingers.