Last Year


This is Haru’s last month in kindergarten.  She will graduate next month and start her first year of elementary school.  Often times, I think about what I was like when I was six years old.   Like for example, on my first day of first grade, was I able to read and write?  I think I was able to, but not so well.  I remember there was a girl in my first grade class named Rebecca.  She was unusually very smart.  She was able to read and write like an adult (or so it seemed at the time).  While I still had to sound out my words (example: c…aaa…t, cat!), she was reading whole sentences fluently.  The teacher would often call on her to read out loud, because she read so well.

Haru’s reading and writing level is not quite at the Rebecca level, but it does surpass what I was able to at her age.  She has been writing letters back and forth to her friends since she was four.  I’m not sure if this is normal for person entering her first year of kindergarten, or if she’s a bit ahead.

There are certainly things I could do when I was six that Haru still struggles with.  For example, I think I was able to put together moderately difficult puzzles and model cars when I was her age.  Haru doesn’t seem to have the patience or attention span to spend more than a few minutes piecing together puzzles together before she gets bored.  I think I was a lot more aware of my surroundings back then than Haru is.  For example, when I would overhear two adults talking, I would know what they were talking about.  I remember one day on the way home from school, a strange guy who was visiting our apartment complex said hello to me.  I didn’t respond because, well …he was a stranger, and kids are taught not to talk to strangers.  He then turned to a woman (our neighbor) next to him (presumably his girlfriend) and ask “what’s his problem?”.  The woman responded “He’s probably going through separation anxiety.  Most latch key kids do.”  I remember thinking to myself back then, “No stupid, I don’t talk to strangers!”  Although I may not have known what “separation anxiety” meant at the time, it didn’t sound like a good thing, and those words, along with many other words that I didn’t understand when spoken to me at that young age, stuck with me until I was able to figure out what it meant a few years later.  But I am sure that this isn’t too normal.  I have a very strange, near photographic memory that let’s me recall only strange things that happen to me.  Its too bad I can’t apply this ability to more practical things.  In that respect, I think Haru’s lack of awareness, or at least not having the same awkward and somewhat useless awareness ability that I had when I was her age, is more due to her innocence rather than intelligence.   When I was her age, I had to grow up and learn about things going on around me quickly, hence making me lose my sense of innocence and oblivion at a much younger age.

In terms of talents, Haru is by far much more talented than I could ever wish to be at her age.  She has an innate ability to do things on stage, and do it with a smile.  Perhaps this is from doing cheerleading for nearly two years.  While the other kids get stage fright and stand their like a deer in headlights, Haru looks very comfortable and relaxed.  She often says that she gets nervous, but she doesn’t show it all, which is a sign of a real showman.

And of course she is pretty good at gymnastics.  This year she will be bumped up to the junior level so she will be able learn some new things without being disturbed and distracted by the unruly little brats  kids in her class.   Most of the kids in the junior class are kids who want to take gymnastics, and are serious about it, as opposed to their parents forcing them to be there in the attempts to get them over their little quirks or phobias before elementary school.  The junior level class definitely separates the wheat from the chaff.

A video of Haru putting on a show with her classmates at kindergarten:


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7/7 Tanabata


July 7th was Tanabata (七夕) or the Evening of the Seventh, and every year Haru has a cheer leading event on this day.  This year was no different.  Haru and her cheer leading team gave a presentation in front a local department store in front of literally hundreds of people, and did very well.

It was a hot day, a very hot day.  Temperatures were in the high 30’s (Celsius).  We arrived at the department store where the event was being held about an hour and half before Haru’s event started to secure a good seat close to the stage.  I managed to secure a couple of seats in the middle of seating section so I was pretty pleased.

Cheer leading wasn’t the only event of the day.  There were several events, including gospel singing, square dancing, a blind boy playing a piano, etc.  None of the really attracted a big crowd and most of the seats were empty when these events were going on.  Naturally, I thought that Haru’s cheer leading event wouldn’t be all that popular either.  Besides, who really cares about watching a bunch of kindergarten and elementary school aged kids cheer lead, aside from the parents, right?  Well, I was wrong…VERY wrong.

As the blind boy did his performance (which seemed like it went on for hours at one point) most of the seats cleared out.  Not because boy played poorly (as a matter of fact her as pretty well) but more because it was so hot outside, most people headed inside the store or  stayed in the shade.  I took this opportunity to seek a better seat closer to the stage, and I managed secure a couple of seats in the front row.  Excellent, now I can get some really good  shots…. so I thought.

After the blind boy finished his performance, the MC announced that the cheer leaders were next.  At that moment, literally hundreds of people flocked to the spectators area like band of rats to a rotting peace of cheese .  Then the MC announced that people were allowed to sit right in front of the stage, and then about 150 people basically rushed the stage and made it almost impossible for us to see anything from where we sitting.  Needless to say, I was LIVID, and I wasn’t the only one.  There were boos by the sitting crowd, some of who came really early like we did to secure good seats.   I wasn’t having it.  I didn’t sit in scorching heat for nearly two hours, just to look at the back of someones head.  I grabbed my camera and literally shoved my way through the crowd who very rudely CUT IN FRONT OF US to reclaim by rightful spot up front, so that I can get a better shot.  People weren’t too happy, but I really didn’t care.

We wound up having to sit on the scorching hot concrete which was burning my skin.  It really hurt, but I tried to endure it as best I could until the show was over.  The only thing that got me through it was the hope of getting really good pictures, and knowing that Haru was having to endure hotter temperatures sitting on a flat black mat on the stage.  At least I was wearing jeans, she was wearing only a thin polyester skirt.

The entire presentation lasted about 15 minutes.  I personally didn’t see any noticeable mistakes, by Haru and she did very well.  All in all, I am glad I went despite the heat and the rude insensitive people and the stupid MC who allowed people cut in front of us.

 

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Cheerleading Festival 2013


Last Sunday, Haru had her second third cheerleading event.  The last one was a while back so I can barely recall when it was.  This one was big!…REALLY BIG.  Basically cheerleaders of all levels and all ages gathered in Kawasaki last Sunday to demonstrate their amazing athletic feats.  Some teams were truly amazing to watch; it reminded me of the movie, Bring it On!

There were literally hundreds of cheerleaders from all of over Japan.  Some were really good; some ….not so much.  The good teams, the really good teams were simply amazing.  There was a lot of aerial stunts and throwing of people in the air -sometimes VERY high into the air.  It makes one wonder if anyone was ever seriously injured practicing these really complicated and difficult routines.  For me, the team that stood out the most was from Yokohama.  It was a small team of about 5 girls (the smallest team at the event), and they called themselves the Funky A’s.  Watching them made be almost forget that they were elementary age girls, because the routine was simply amazing.  If this was a competition, they would have won, or least come in a very close second.

Haru’s team, the Hearties Jr., are made up of of girls from pre-kindergarten age (like Haru) to upper elementary school age.  As a matter of fact, there were very few teams with cheerleaders older than elementary school age.  Haru is in the youngest class, so of course they don’t do overly complicated or difficult routines, but they do do some aerial stunts whenever they can.

I must say that I am very proud of Haru this time.  She performed admirably, and made very few noticeable mistakes.  She practiced at home a lot, and I one point I almost believed that she wasn’t going to be able to memorize the routine in time for the event, but she did.  But the one thing that I noticed is that Haru wasn’t nervous, and she did most of her routing with a smile on her face.  Some of her teammates looked nervous, some even frightened to be in front of a large audience of literally thousands of people.  So for someone who was on a stage with so many people in the audience, she did excellent and I was very proud.


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Cheerleading Event Part II


Over the weekend, Haru had her second cheer leading event. My wife had been warning me in advanced that Haru wasn’t catching onto her new routine as well as the other children in her class and as well as she did before, so I was expecting somewhat of a disaster.

The event took place in a gym of an elementary school on the other side of town.   I had to work that morning, so my wife had already taken Haru to the school so that she could prepare with the rest of her cheer leading squad.  After my work was done, I hopped on the train home and met my wife at the the station where we had quick lunch at the nearby restaurant and then headed off to the elementary school.  It was raining a bit and it was a bit of a walk to get to the school from the train station.

As with any of Haru’s event, the venue was packed with parents, but not to the point where we had to be there ultra early otherwise we couldn’t see anything.  The whole event was somewhat of a kid’s talent show.  Kid’s were performing different things from hip hop dancing to piano and violin.  We arrived about thirty minutes before Haru’s event.  It seems that most of the parents in the audience (including us) weren’t too interested in watching the whole show -just their child’s event.  So, people were walking in and out all afternoon, and so we managed to get pretty good seats after a relatively short wait.

After sitting through about4 or 5 events, it was about time for Haru’s cheer leading event to start, so I grabbed the video camera and stood off to the side of the gym where I could get a better unobstructed view.   Most of the other parents did the same when their child was performing.  Prior to Haru’s group’s performance, there were two girls who were about 11 or 12 years playing a piano and violin duet on stage.  There were pretty good, but their performance lasted WAY too long.  It went on for nearly 20 minutes, which may not seem that long, but in reality, it’s a very long time to have to continuously listen to someone playing a piano and violin.

It was finally time for the cheer leader’s appearance.  Most of the girls had been waiting by the gym door, patiently awaiting the conclusion of the previous recital.  Right after the recital was finished, some of them premature ran out onto the floor before their spotters could spread the gym mats on the hard floors where they would be performing.  At this point, I couldn’t see Haru anywhere because she looked so tiny compared to the other girls.  Haru is one of the youngest if not the youngest girl in the squad.  I think she is even the youngest among the kindergarten squad.  But the amazing thing is (and of course I may sound biased) she can do a lot of the gymnastics stunts that the older kids do.  Apparently, there is one girl who is a year older than Haru who had been having problems landing her cartwheels.  Haru has been practicing cart wheels and round offs like crazy and is able to nail the landing about 90% of the time.  But for some reason, the instructor won’t let her have her own solo.  Perhaps its because she is too young, but most likely because she’s been having a hard time remembering the routines.  IN HER DEFENSE though, she was did better in her first event and didn’t have look at the other kids much for ques on what to do.  I attribute this to having to have to remember all of stuff for Sports Day at her kindergarten,  in which they practiced and did drills for on a daily basis.

Sports day practices at Haru’s kindergarten is notorious for being pretty intense depending what teacher you get.  I remember last year, Haru nearly had a break down from all of the intensiveness.  She cried and threw tantrums almost every single day.  And as soon as the Sports Day events were over, she returned back to normal.  So, maybe it was a bit of an overload for her.

Having said all this, Haru didn’t make any too many big mistakes, but when she did make a mistake, it was a bit noticeable.  But I figured that since she is small and young, it would be seen as “cute” instead of embarrassing.

 


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Bring it on!


August is FINALLY over!  I really despise August in Japan.  It’s hot, humid, boring, no holidays, and there are nasty bugs (especially cicadas) all over the place.  It’s definitely not one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s still quite hot in Japan, but it should be cooling down pretty soon.  Usually the weather becomes pretty mellow by the second or third week of September.

Haruka had her first cheer leading event last week -yes she four years old and she’s a cheer leader -not my idea, but she seems to enjoy it and having a lot fun with it, so no objections here.  The good part of her cheer leading class is that they also teach tumbling so it gives her an opportunity polish her somersaults, cart wheels, and other  tumbling moves.  Also, they seem to be more focused on limberness so they emphasize stretching a lot more than they do at her gymnastics class, so that’s a good thing as well.

Admittedly, I was pretty cynical  over the  whole idea of  Haruka doing cheer leading in the beginning.  It sounded really silly to me at first, because they don’t do competitions and I wanted Haruka to do competition sports.  Also, her cheer leading practices are on Thursdays, so I am not able go to any of her practices to watch her progress, so I wasn’t completely on board for any of this until I actually attended her first event.  It was clear that her cheer leading classes raise her concentration level as well as her coordination which is pretty important for gymnastics as well.  So overall, I was pretty pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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