Halloween has gained public recognition in Japan. You can tell by checking the shelves of the dollar store equivalent, Daiso. There you’ll find jack-o-lantern everything, witch hats, masks, and capes. One of the English schools in Matsumoto was putting on a Halloween party for its students. Now, as a foreigner in Japan, your social status goes up to that of a minor celebrity. So when they heard that I, a real American (!) was in town, I got an invite to the special event. (Ok, maybe that’s dramatic, but it is true that having a white face gives you special access to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise hear of.)
The school was set up with stations that the students could rotate through. Each one gained them a sticker. When they had received all their stickers, they were then given a map of the old fashioned shopping street in town showing them which storeowners were participating in Trick or Treating. One of the stations required that they jump plastic frogs into buckets filled with different numbers of flies. They had to count and tell in English how many flies their frogs had eaten. Another one required them to walk across a plank watching out for sharks in the turbulent water below. My station was a fishing game. Students had to use a fishing pole to catch their trick or treating bags. Other stations had crafts, face painting, and a webcam with a feature that distorted people’s faces in different ways.
It was a very fun day. It had been over 2 years since I’d last taught English, yet I found it very easy to slip back into the simplified, over-enunciated speech. Kids cycled through in cute costumes, and I tried out different phrases to see which would be most universally understood. “Hello! Do you want to go fishing? Use this [rod] to catch the bag!” It took some fine motor skills to be able to link the hook under the handle, so for some of the 2 and 3 year olds a parent or older sibling usually helped them out. With all the activity and students cycling through, the 3 hours passed in no time.