Summer Camp at the American School in Japan

This summer, Haru will be attending summer camp for a week at the American School in Japan (ASIJ).  This is another effort to get her confident in speaking English.  She has a decent sized vocabulary.  Probably not as big as most native English speakers her age, but definitely more than a majority of Japanese kids.  However, her main issue is that she has hard time forming complete sentences.  I think this is mainly due the lack of confidence.  I am not expecting her to come away from this summer camp being able to speak fluent English, but I do hope it instills some confidence in her to be able to at least try to speak some more English at home with me.

Over the weekend, we visited the ASIJ Roppongi campus which was VERY nice.  It was a lot bigger than I imagined it to be.  There were several classrooms, and each of the classrooms were quite big, and very equipped with books, pens, makers, paint,construction paper, glitter, origami, toys, etc.  Everything that a kid Haru’s age loves to play with.   And unlike the current kindergarten she is attending now, the classrooms are oriented in a way that encourages kids to play in groups, which I remember how kindergarten was for me.  The reason for the visit was to attend and orientation meeting and to get an idea of what this school was all about.  It also gave Haru a chance to meet and play with the other kids and the instructors who will be a part of the summer camp.

When we entered the class, we were immediately  greeted by an English speaking instructor.  She asked Haru what her name is, and Haru immediately became flushed in embarrassment and shyness, but she was able squeak out her name Haruka Victoria, which I was surprised because she usually refers to herself as just Haru-chan.    The instructor wrote Victoria on her name tag and called her Victoria for the rest of the day, which Haru didn’t seem to have any objections to.  She was then immediately whisked off to the other side of the room where a couple instructors sat with her and spoke to her in English while drawing pictures.  As expected, Haru didn’t do much talking, but I could hear her quietly and saying yes and no, as the instructors asked her some questions.  When one of the instructors asked her what color marker she wanted to use, Haru was able answer “yellow” in English, so it does seem that she is absorbing some of the things I had taught her.

As the other parents and their kids started to arrive, Haru continued to sit at the table with the instructors and draw pictures while holding a conversation in English.  As my wife and I looked around the room a bit more, I noticed a very peculiar looking yet familiar looking man walk in with his family.  He was peculiar looking, because his clothes were a bit, well…let’s say a bit bright (to use a polite term), almost as if he had mistakenly worn his baggy pajama pants with relatively normal looking top and jacket.  He was also wearing really odd looking mirrored sun glasses (we were indoors by the way), and a VERY big and expensive looking wrist watch.  His family looked very average in contrast to him which made him stand out even more.

I couldn’t help but to stare at pajama man, but not because his clothes looked so mismatched, but because he looked so oddly familiar.  I kept thinking, I know I don’t know this person and never met him, but I know I have seen him before.  He wasn’t too tall, and looked a bit straggly but looked to have money at the same time.  At a glance, he sort of reminded me of Dudley Moore from the movie Arthur.  At that moment, he looked straight at me and our eyes met, so I was about to turn away because I didn’t want him to think I was staring at him (even though I blatantly was).  But I figured that if turned away, it would make things even more awkward, so I kind of gave him what probably looked like a very odd and insincere smile, partially because it really was an odd and insincere smile, which only served to make thing even more awkward.  Pajama man returned an even more awkward and goofier smile at which point I finally realized who he was from his somewhat  goofy looking over bite, and half shaved and pointy eyebrows. 

Trying not to be super obvious, I turned to my wife and asked, doesn’t that guy look like Tsunku (つんく )?  She nonchalantly took a glance at him and responded and answered yes he does.  A few minutes and a few more glances later, she came back to me and whispered,  OMG..that’s him!  Of course, I am not particularly a huge Tsunku  fan ( lead vocal of the Japanese pop group SharamQ, and producer of Morning Musume, a famous and popular girl group -from the late 90’s to 2000’s), but I do have a few of his song on my iphone, and of course its always a rush to see a famous celebrity in person.  I was a bit tempted to walk over and strike up a conversation with him, but figured that he gets that a lot.  And since he was with his family, he probably didn’t want to bothered with the celebrity treatment.  So for most of the day, I tried stayed out of pajama man’s Tsunku’s way, while trying to inconspicuously attract his attention at the same time…didn’t work.

We attended the orientation meeting which lasted about an hour or so.  Before the orientation started.  A little boy walked into the auditorium crying.  At that point my wife made a pretty genius move and quietly murmured , someone’s cute little boy is crying, just loud enough for his father, which so happened to be Tsunku, who was sitting a couple of row in front of us, to hear.  He stood up, glanced back at us and said…Oh, that’s my son…thanks!  And flashed his big goofy smile at us and walked out to tend to his son.

Overall,  Haru seemed to have had a good time at playing with the other kids, and the instructors were very nice.  Hopefully things goes as well this summer.   And Tsunku, if you are reading this, I fully pardon you for your big puffy pajama pants…am I not merciful?





Second Year

Haruka started her second year of kindergarten this week.  She is in a new class with a new teacher.  According to my wife, some of  Haru’s classmates are having a hard time adjusting to the change, and many have wet their pants or beds over the last week.  Haru’s always been pretty good with adjusting to change.  Change never seems to phase her too much, which I suppose is a good thing, but she does seem to tire a lot more easily lately.  Lat night, I got home a little before 8PM, and Haru was already in bed.  She came down briefly and told me she was tired and sleepy, and was going to bed early, and went back to bed.  I guess this was her way of dealing with the change…sleep.

Gymnastic is going well.  I hope she likes it enough for her to want to continue for a while.  We have already invested in a new gym uniform complete with name embroidered in the collar and and shirt.  Its a pretty expensive uniform (about $300 USD), but I am in favor of it because Haru loves to dress up, and may be enough of an incentive for her to stick with it.  I also want to get mats and a spotting harness in the near future so that she can practice at home.  The spotting harness allows her to more complicated tumbling moves while being assisted by a spotter.  Of course, it will be a while before she gets to this level, but tumbling mats are a must have.

Finally, we suspected that Haru had grown a lot in the last year, but didn’t really know how much until recently.  She is just over 100 cm now.  The last time she went on a play date with her friend Anri, he towered over by several centimeters….maybe even in the double digits.  Earlier this week, they met up again for the first play date this year, and it was very apparent that Haru had pretty much closed the gap.  Haru was only slightly shorter than Anri.  So, I am really curious on how she ranks in her class this year.

The Weekend Gymnast

The weather has gotten a bit warmer lately.  Pretty soon, I won’t have to wear my coat to work anymore, but it is still a bit chilly in the morning and evenings.  We also had a bit of a storm last night that felt like a typhoon.  It was so bad, that we were all sent home  from work early yesterday, because the national weather service had sent out an advisory earlier.  Today, the weather has gone back to being nice and warm.

Its spring break for Haru.  She will begin her second year of kindergarten next week.  As much as I said that I didn’t like her teacher, Ikeda-sensei,  I think I am going to miss her.  She actually wasn’t really that bad.  My only complaint is that she seems so robotic when she teaches.  I rarely saw her express any joy or real enthusiasm on the rare occasions when I visited her class.  She was always very straight faced.  The times when she did express any glimmer of emotion, it really didn’t seem that genuine. Very much like a robot, programmed to do what she is told and nothing more.

This spring was spent exploring Haru’s interests.  She is very hyperactive, and so we needed to find something she could focus her energy at.  We explored putting her in swimming class, but she didn’t seem to enjoy it too much.  Afterwards, she would say I don’t want to go anymore.  The last thing we wanted to do is force her to do something she didn’t enjoy, otherwise she would wind up either resenting it, or quitting.

We then tried to see if she would take to karate.   She seemed to enjoy the class, but for the wrong reasons.  On the days she went to the trial class, they were having the older kids carry the younger kids on their back and run around the room.  Of course, Haru loved being carried.  As much as I would love to have Haru take karate, I think that when they start doing the real stuff, she isn’t going to enjoy it as much.  I remember how much work it was when I took karate.  There were some days when I felt as if  I were going to pass out from working out too hard.   So for now, karate isn’t exactly out, but its on the back burner.

Finally, we took Haru to check out the gymnastics classes.  I genuinely think that Haru has a strong aptitude for gymnastics, and if taught and trained properly, she would do really well.  Its an area where I did well at as well, so I can also train her at home.

The trial classes lasted 3 days.  I attended the first day last Sunday.  My first impression was that the gym was too small and wasn’t going to be big enough to be able to do proper tumbles.  But after a while, it seemed that although the gym itself was small, it was effective.  It had all of the essentials needed to be able to do the routines that gymnasts do.  Haru, for the most part, did really well on her first day.  Of course there were things she couldn’t do too well, like the bars for example, but she can tumble really well.  As a matter of fact, she did as well if not better than some of the enrolled students there.  But the most important thing is that she really seemed to like it.  She even likes her teacher whom she refers to as Aya sensei.  Aya sensei looks a lot her kindergarten teacher, Ikeda-sensei, which is probably the reason why she was able to bond to her so quickly.

Haru completed her last trial class yesterday, and was presented the choice of classes she wanted to take: swimming, karate, gymnastics, soccer, or ballet.  Ballet was always Haru’s first choice, but again for wrong reason.  She just wanted wear the ballet tutu and shoes, so we eliminated that as a choice for her.   So out of what was left, she opted for the gymnastics class.  So it is now official!  Haru is now a weekend gymnast.  She will be will be attending class every Saturday which is perfect because that means I can go too.


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