Japan · JET Programme · School

High School ‘Department Store’ 2015

It’s that time of the year again for the annual ‘Department Store’ at my one high school. Just like last year’s one, the students (and teachers) start preparing for this 2-day weekend event a few months in advance. To briefly explain: students contact companies and businesses in the surrounding area asking if they can take their products (such as baked goods, household items, and omiyage presents) and sell them to the public at school. Students learn business skills and how to properly sell items, do transactions, etc. This is all part of their learning experience as this particular school is a business/commercial high school.

It does mean, however, that I have to be at school the whole weekend while this is going on. I originally thought I would be spending most of my time desk-warming today after walking around and taking some pictures of the classroom stores. Though I was surprisingly wrong about that…

This classroom was selling various bread products

A shark, trout, and Angry Bird fly into a classroom…

So shortly after finishing my walk around the stores, my one JTE came to me and asked me to help him with something:

The principal had asked the JTE to put together three huge blow-up animals – a shark, trout, and Angry Bird – that can be remotely controlled. They are filled with helium so you have these animals ‘flying’ around the room. The slight hindrance to the JTE was that the instructions were in English, and quite detailed, so he thought bringing me in to help would speed things up.

Assembling the three massive balloon animals took us almost 2 hours to do as the instructions were quite confusing at first – though by the last animal we hardly needed to look at the manual. However, it was quite fun and even more so when we got the animals ‘flying’ around the room – controlling the balance and tail movements with a remote control. It was so funny watching a shark swim above us. We even managed to get them flying out of the one office and into the next – and then we were battling it out between the shark and the trout… we were such kids!

All ready and waiting to wreak havoc
The trout was quite life-like when it ‘swam’… while the shark pined out the window looking at the sea…

We almost forgot that we actually had to get these things outside and to wherever the principal wanted them in the school. Turns out we had to take them to the assembly hall/gym where a selection of stalls were set up.

We manoeuvred our way through the crowds while holding the animals above our heads, finally getting to the hall. With remote controls in our hands, we prepared ourselves for the grand release while a couple of onlookers watched us curiously. On the count of three we let the animals free and watched in horror as they started ascending rather rapidly up towards the incredibly high ceiling… and staying there.

When we were in the small office, we had balanced the animals (using putty) so that they would stay at a certain height (just slightly above head-height). However, the great expanse of the hall caused – through some obvious scientific reason that I have yet to work out – the animals to float straight up and out of our grasp.

For the next 40 minutes we tried to get the animals to fly back down – much to the excitement of the pre-school children that were visiting the hall at the same time. You can imagine how exciting it must be walking into the hall and looking up to see a life-sized shark swimming above you. Because the weight of the animals were now too light, we couldn’t get them to fly straight back to us – however, with carefully planned movements (and working from the second floor side-stalls where the light operators work) we finally managed to ‘catch’ them.

After weighing them down properly, we decided to leave the trout in the hall with a student operating it, and moved the shark and Angry Bird to the English classroom which had been turned into a children’s activity centre.

One of my students staring down the shark

In the end my morning was quite fun. I especially enjoyed seeing the surprised faces on the students and the little kids when we managed to operate the animals properly – and just above head-height…

I am sure tomorrow will not be as exciting, but now I can confidently say that I want a flying shark for Christmas. šŸ˜€

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