The boys are attending the Fukuoka International School
The boys are attending the Fukuoka International School29-Aug-2014 14:33, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
“Everyone on the internet – they’re not having as great a time as you think they are.”
– Portlandia: cropping out all the sadness
While we are definitely enjoying our time in Fukuoka, our first couple months here were very challenging in some ways. The boys were out of school, but they didn’t know anyone here to spend time with, and Maria and I are both working full time. Japanese public schools don’t have a long summer break like US schools, so there aren’t the same options for summer camps here. Given that we’re in Japan, and far from Tokyo (which is where most Western expats are), there also isn’t much in the way of kids activities that are available in English. So Maria and I have been juggling taking the kids out and squeezing in our work hours. Nonetheless, the boys logged many hours of video gaming this summer, cooped up in our tiny apartment alongside Maria and I while we worked.
So when school started for the boys last week, it wasn’t a moment too soon. They are attending the Fukuoka International School (FIS), which is a K-12 school, with instruction in English. This is the first time they’ve attended the same school, at the same time. To get there, the boys have a 7 or so minute walk to the nearest subway stop, then they ride for 4 stations, and then ride bikes for about 5 minutes to the school, as it’s too far to walk from the station every day. We bought them a couple of cheap bikes, which they keep near the station.
Like everyone else in Japan, they leave their bikes unlocked, because petty crime here is very rare (most bikes here have a built-in lock that prevents the rear wheel from moving, but it’s actually not permitted to lock your bike to anything). Eidan was very unhappy with his bike at first: he was unsteady on it, and it wasn’t sufficiently masculine for his tastes (it’s robin’s egg blue). So I went to school with the boys for the first couple of days, to make sure they knew the route, and to help Eidan keep his bike steady while he got used to it (I jogged alongside with one hand on the bike). After a couple days, they knew the way, and Eidan was comfortable on his bike. So they go back and forth to school on their own now.
When we lived in Tokyo 2007, Kai attended 1st grade in our neighborhood’s public school, and walked there every morning on his own. This is not only allowed, but is actively encouraged: back then we got a letter from the school, telling us we would only embarrass him if we went to school with him. Even though I understand this is how things are done here, as an American, I instinctively still find it worrying to see little elementary school kids routinely walking down the sidewalks of a busy city, all by themselves.
A price of this safety is a more intrusive society. In 2007, we had to invite Kai’s kindergarten teacher over to our apartment for tea, so she could ask us about his home life, and see for herself what our home was like. We don’t have to do that now with FIS, since it’s a private school, but Kai told me that once they started going to school without me, they were stopped and peppered with questions multiple times by crossing guards and old ladies: What’s your name? What school do you go to? Do you know the way? Is that your brother? (that’s Kai’s best guess at what they were asking him anyway, since they were speaking Japanese).
Maria came home with them at the end of their first day, and when I asked Eidan how his first day went, he proclaimed it was “AWESOME.” Kai said it was “ok” in the way that teens do, when something is great but it wouldn’t be cool to admit to your parents how great it was. We’re now at the end of the second week, and they both have a circle of friends already. Eidan even went to a classmate’s birthday party after the second day of school, and had a playdate today.
The boys are the only Americans in their classes. The school seems to be about one-third Japanese students, one-third Korean, and the rest are mostly a mix of Indians, Australians, and New Zealanders. At the birthday party Eidan went to, I got into a conversation with some of the moms about schools in their countries, and how they compared to FIS (there were no dads at the party besides me, but that’s another story…). I told them my initial impression was that FIS is academically about the same as the Haverford public schools, where the boys were before we arrived, which I think are pretty good. The Japanese and Korean moms said that for their kids, attending FIS feels like being on vacation, compared to the public schools they attended previously. So there’s a telling comparison for you (but, of course, an anecdotal one).
The school has a great location, right next to the Muromi river. The school has a decent sized indoor gym, but very little outdoor space, so when the weather is good, they have gym class on the beach.
As for me, I’m thrilled I can now have a regular workday. Most days now I can finish my work by the time they get home from school, instead of often having to work late a night like I was this summer. So, we are all happy school has started
View of the Muromi river, right next to the Fukuoka International School
View of the Muromi river, right next to the Fukuoka International School29-Aug-2014 16:39, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 5.0, 10.628mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 250
A home-made shark piñata, at Eidan's new friend's birthday party
A home-made shark piñata, at Eidan's new friend's birthday party29-Aug-2014 14:43, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
The slide in the park across the street from the Fukuoka International School
The slide in the park across the street from the Fukuoka International School29-Aug-2014 16:52, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200