Preschool Preparation in Japan--My Part Time Job

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Editor's Note: Our missionary family to Japan, the Alvarados, recently enrolled their four year-old daughter, Rosalyn, in the education system in Japan. This is a reminder of what our missionaries face when living and serving in another culture. Please continue to lift them up in prayer. So much that we take for granted can be a major hurdle in another country.

I stood in front of the rack of plastic-wrapped packages, one hand on my forehead, one holding the open book in front of me.  I glanced up and studied the rack.  I looked back down and studied the book.

Five minutes later, the scene was the same, only my kiddos were nearing the end of their patience.  I looked around and spotted a lady with an elementary-aged kid.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t work here.”

“I know, but you have a kid."  [awkward pause] "Can you help me?”

I had a whole list of things to buy. Some of the packages looked like they might match the pictures in my book, but without labels, I couldn’t confirm. Everything made sense to all the Japanese moms, who knew instinctively what they were, but I was at a loss as to why I needed so many separate bags.  On some of them, the measurements and shapes mattered.  Some didn’t.

I bought what I could confirm I needed and texted my neighbor on the walk home.  A few days later, she helped me figure out all I would need, what fabrics were used for what types of bags, and where I could pinch pennies and just get supplies at the dollar store.

Gee whiz!  The next couple of weeks were spent at the sewing machine we borrowed, sewing labels onto my kid’s uniforms. Even her socks, shoes and undergarments needed her name written on them.  The socks (I was advised to go with dark colors) needed a special white oil pen and were best written on the arch of the foot. Because the writing wears off easily, I was warned I’d be doing this forever.

After adjusting the sleeves on her uniform jacket multiple times, I finally called it a season and started to put away the pile that had become “school stuff”.

I began to look to the Entrance Ceremony.  I was expected to wear a 'first-lady looking suit,' with a corsage.   Spring colors are chic for entrance ceremonies while black is better for graduations.  (Store that somewhere in my mental file cabinet of pertinent particulars.) My husband would need a suit and tie for the occasion.  I added these things to my checklist.  Incidentally, I just learned that the corsage is not a real flower but a fake flowery thing--most of them too phoo-phoo for me.

I sat with a lady from church who went through our instruction booklet with me--every single page.

“On Mondays, you’ll take all these bags.  You put this, this, and that in this bag and the rest go in that bag.  On Wednesdays, the towels (with the little loop you sewed to the center) will come home; wash it and send another back on Thursdays. 

School lunch is Monday, Wednesday and Fridays; you pack a lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Still, go ahead and send the cup/bag each day because the kids get thirsty.

Notes home from the teacher will come in this pocket.  Check it everyday. You can send notes to the teacher in the same pocket on this type of paper. Don’t call the school except for X, Y or Z reasons. 

The school will withdraw the money from your account right around the first of the month, so make sure it’s deposited.”

The specifications went on and on.

Thankfully, in all this process, it’s been so wonderful to have a lady from our church and my next-door neighbor to help answer the many questions I come up with.

This morning, I spent 30 minutes searching in near panic for one of the pins I’m supposed to put on her jacket. I stopped, prayed, and happened to look down at the book and read right at the spot where it said I would receive this pin at the entrance ceremony.

Whew.  Did I mention I had a dream--sometime in February--that it was the first day of school and I had done none of these preparations and my kid was the only one standing out completely unprepared?

Yeah, I had that dream.  It was occasioned by a note in the instruction booklet which said kids experience a terrible shock when they realize they don’t have what they need and everyone else does--so please be careful to make sure you prepare your child well.


Well, I think we are all ready for tomorrow.  Rosalyn certainly is, and I think that’s the main point.  After months of preparation, I think we’re ready to embark on this first leg of the journey that is full-time school life in Japan.

by Janine Alvarado, CCEA Missionary to Japan