Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring time

Hanami in Beppu Park

It seems that spring is finally gracing us with it's presence....about time! It kind of feels like we have been in a holding pattern weather wise for the last month. With winter pretending to finish around and end of Feb, March looked as though it might bring the warmer weather...instead we had wind and rain. Luckily for us though that appears to be all in the past and we have been enjoying quite an important part of the Japanese year.

Spring means a number of things in Japan. Firstly it is the new financial year, businesses report profits and loss, and this year things aren't look to good for the Japanese economy. Japan Airlines, Asia's biggest airline, is losing 1 billion yen a day (NZ$15 million), has filled for bankruptcy (surprise) and is axing 16,000 staff immediately! Toyota continues to look bad as there cars speed off while the handbrake is on and the general vibe is the economy is rubbish.

Secondly, it is the start of the new school year. Something I have found very strange. Unlike NZ the Japanese school system runs from April - March with only a small break in between the school year and a big break over the summer (July/August) holidays. This means teachers only have a max of 10 days to prepare for the year ahead. What makes things even stranger is that most teachers change school during this time. Teachers are not employed by the schools directly, instead they answer to the board of education in each city/town. This means teachers/secretaries/principals are often switched around each year, especially if you do not have your 'teaching license'. For example, my school has about 45 teachers and 26 of them are new thins year! What makes things even stranger is they only have about 4 days warning before they are required to move! Crazy.

So over the last week it feels like my job has changed a lot. I have a new desk, with new teachers, new students and a whole bunch of new classes.

Lastly it's cherry blossom season. If you had to use one thing as a symbol for Japan it would be a tight race between Mt Fuji and cherry blossoms (sakura). The Japanese go crazy over them. As they only bloom for about 2-3 weeks it is a short lived period that everyone makes the most of. The traditional event is 'hanami', basically a picnic under the trees with family and friends. Not wanting to miss out on the fun we have had a few of our own hanamis and a bonfire on the beach!