July 24, 2014
No more school, no more books!
Summer vacation has finally arrived. Having a summer vacation kind of makes up for the low pay for teachers. But in Japan, summer vacation is a bit different than it is back home.
When I was a student, summer vacation in the US was long. It started at the beginning of June and lasted until the day after Labor Day. (I understand though that it’s shorter now.) September meant the beginning of the new school year. There were the frequent shopping trips to the back to school sales. I loved having all those new clothes. Some years I’d also get a new backpack.
You’re not in Kansas anymore.
One of the things that I realized about myself when I came to Japan was that my understanding of the world was very limited and America centric. I just assumed that everywhere else was the same as it was back home. I’m glad to say that I have grown a bit since then.
First of all, the school year in Japan starts in April. So their spring vacation is the period between school years. This is despite the fact that spring vacation is only 2 weeks long. So summer vacation is just a break after the first term.
Second, it doesn’t start at the same time. When I was in school, I never got to have a class birthday party because my birthday is in June. In Japan, summer vacation starts in the later half of July. This means, of course, that now I have to work on my birthday.
Third, summer vacation in Japan is not as long. It’s only about 6 weeks long. After that, it’s back to school!
Wait, there’s more
During summer vacation, teachers work and students go to school. Yeah, you read that right. Teachers get one week off and that’s all. I’m not actually a teacher, but a sub contractor so I get the full 6 weeks off. Although even I have to do some work here and there.
I think the fact that many students go to school durning summer vacation is something that surprised me the most. But wait, there’s more. Students get summer homework too. They get homework during winter and spring vacations too. Even if they graduate and move on to another school. Their new school gives them homework before they even start attending! Perhaps “vacation” isn’t the proper word.
In all fairness, it’s mostly the older students who do most of the studying. Elementary students from grades 1-4 have all the time off. 5th and 6th graders have activities, usually club activities. The same with junior high, grades 1-3. But they all have homework! High school students go regularly. It’s not so much a vacation as a reduced schedule.
Back to school!
The last and final difference is the weather. Being from central California, I’m used to it slowly beginning to cool off in September. Not so in Japan. September is typhoon season. It’s still hot and muggy. Hardly sweater weather. Last year it was hot until the end of November. That was not pleasant.
Regardless of the differences, summer vacation is always nice. Even though I have a 6 hour meeting to go to tomorrow, I’ve already been able to enjoy some time off. It sure is hot though.