March 31st, 2016

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
Kobayashi Issa

I made my supervisor and vice-superintendent tear-up, today.

In Japan, spring, typically marks change and new beginnings. It is during this time of year when people all across Japan retire, transfer jobs, graduate, and fiscal and academic school years come to an end. As waves of people end a chapter of their lives, today – tomorrow, April 1st, will mark a brand new chapter for many of them. My supervisor’s name was Mr. Okamoto (or as I called him, “Okamoto-sensei”; despite him being younger than me) and the vice-director of my primary Board of Education was Mr. Maruyama (or Maruyama-sensei). Okamoto-sensei had worked at the BOE for 4 months before he met me, and lo-and-behold, we have known each other for nearly two years already. As for Maruyama-sensei, he had been working in our department for so long that he knew both of my predecessors (who spent a total of 7 years in the village), along with some of my great-grand-predecessors before them. Not to mention, he’s also known me for the (almost) two years I’ve been working there. I want to say I overheard someone say that he had been there for 16 years, but I can’t be 100% certain at this moment in time.

After being their ALT for almost two years now, however, they transfer and begin their new jobs, tomorrow. Okamoto-sensei will be transferring up to the Nara Prefectural Office and Maruyama-sensei will be running a different department in the Town Hall, on a different floor. Knowing this,  I wanted to properly pay my respects, so I stayed at the office later than normal. I’m usually allowed to leave anytime after 4-4:15pm, but I stayed until a little past 6pm in order to say goodbye to them both. They both expressed how sad they were about leaving, but they seemed to handle themselves pretty well for the majority of the day; So, naturally, I didn’t think that what I had to say would hit them so hard.
At any rate, my BOE, along with my supervisor have been extremely supportive of all the things I’ve done while I’ve been working there. They’ve helped me deal with problems concerning school, work, and even my daily life in Japan – so I told them everything that I was sincerely thankful for. They have truly made my life in Japan so much easier than that of some of the stories I’ve heard from fellow JETs and I couldn’t help but express these things to them. Of course, everything I said, I said in Japanese (which is probably not something they’ve come to experience from previous ALTs) but they have been a true Godsend, to me.
I didn’t shed a tear in front of them, but the feelings hit me while I was on the drive home. I’m going to miss them. Thankfully, we have an official “Welcome Banquet” and get-together on the 15th of April, so I’ll be seeing them again. Hopefully by then, I can get them something nice to send them off with.
Cheers to everyone and the upcoming changes coming this next school year.