I teach English once a week at a Juku, which is a small after-school school for kids. I have about 20 students, split into two classes, ages 6 to 11. The kids are very bright and terribly amusing, and all have very Japanese names that makes me grateful for my awesome natural talent of sometimes being able to remember people’s names.
The owner of the Juku is Takahashi-san, a very nice Japanese woman who co-teaches the classes. Every year she holds two “American-style” parties for Easter and Halloween, holidays that are novel in Japan. She had me purchase egg-dying kits and Easter candy and cookies, and teach the kids about Easter in America. Resurrection? Church? Chocolate bunnies? Rabbits bringing eggs? It’s all kind of hard to explain, so I gave a very simplified version. The kids seemed to understand, but thought the bit about rabbits bringing eggs was funny.
I inherited this particular job from my friend Wendy, who as a parting gift for the students bought them a pinata for the Easter party. Most folks in Japan have no idea what a pinata is, or the objective. It is rather fun to explain, and when we did the students were so excited. The pinata sat on a table in the Juku for a few weeks, and each week the kids would go up to look at it and inspect.
When the Easter party arrived, I asked Takahashi-san to bring a blindfold something to hit the pinata with. She brought a beautiful silk scarf, and a shoehorn. I deemed it not destructive enough, so we went with an umbrella we had in the Juku. The kids looked slightly bewildered and the blindfolding and the spinning about, and screamed with excitement at each blow on the poor burro. In the end none of us could really bust it open, not even me while peeking through the blindfold. Those suckers are strong. So after everyone had a go, I just ripped it open and let the kids get to the fun part of scrambling for the candy.
We dyed eggs and the students tried to color their eggs in all the dyes and mix them together, in general making a mess. This only illustrates that kids are the same everywhere. I let them try some Peeps, a candy that really should not spread beyond the borders of its home country but I figured was quintessential American Easter candy. In a sense, that’s really all I can offer to teach the kids anyway. I’m not a qualified language teacher, but I am qualified to demonstrate life and a somewhat typical childhood in the United States. Since I see them only once a week I don’t know how much English they’ll remember in their school years to come, but I can offer them a little slice of American culture and traditions, and hopefully they’ll at least remember that.