|The Thai-Japanese Association School|
The trip took us well over an hour, but our first stop was at a McDonald's, where the sensei and his wife bought everyone lunch. Everyone was excited about stopping there and went to town ordering everything on the menu. I had brought along sandwiches for my son and me, but I allowed him to purchase French fries. Everyone with us looked at me like I had two heads when I told them we wouldn't be eating McDonald's for lunch. It's so funny how differently McDonald's is regarded here.
Once at the school, we went to a large multi-purpose room where a group of Japanese parents was already there, laying down mats on the floor. Once the mats were on the floor, all the judo students were given a towel and put to task to wipe them down, which reminded me of my school days as a first-grader in Taiwan, where the students were required to clean their classrooms every morning prior to starting school (though I was usually able to get out of it). All the Japanese students and my son got to work right away, while most of our Thai students generally goofed around and did nothing. I wonder if they even know how to clean if their lives depended on it, given that most of them have been waited on hand and foot for their entire lives.
|Cleaning the mats before the event.|
The Japanese kids also took it very seriously; they were extremely disciplined, even the younger ones, but they still played and goofed around like all kids do during the breaks between each round of the exam. During the breaks, the kids broke loose, ran around, and socialized. One of the Japanese boys, who was between 10 and 12 years of age, and my son took a liking to each other, and spent all the breaks with each other, running, chasing, and playing with each other. At the beginning of the event, the boy took it upon himself to show my son the ropes of the event, and made sure he knew where to stand and sit. All this, even though the boy spoke no English. It was sweet to watch.
|A sign at the school.|
For the second round, each child was paired with another child to pin and throw each other down while sitting/kneeling and while standing. All the kids were paired two more times with other kids. My son enjoyed this round much more because he was no longer in the spotlight by himself. He was first paired with a little girl from our school; then with a Japanese girl older, taller, and much more experienced in judo than he; and lastly, with the French-Japanese boy, with whom he seemed to enjoy sparring the most. Both of them were smiling and giggling through the match, and appeared to be doing some kind of dance, grabbing each other by the collar while trying to topple their opponent, and avoid being toppled, by a sweep of the leg.
|The program, with all the students' names translated into Japanese.|
Towards the end of the last round, the Thai parents finally showed up -- in time to pick up their kids. After the examination was over, the entire Japanese school community came together to put away the mats and clean up after themselves and each other. The Thai parents stared at their phones while their kids goofed around.
|Let the games begin.|
The Thai parents, on the other hand, tend to be uninvolved, from what I've seen. At our school's sporting events, parents usually don't show up to watch their children play. When they are around, their attention is usually on their phones. They are undisciplined and their children are usually the same. Their first priority is their children's happiness, but if there is a problem, they outsource it for someone else to resolve it, even if (or, perhaps, I should say "especially if") their children are the source of the problem. They tend to think about, and live in, the here and now, and look for quick solutions.
Then there are the Japanese parents. Like most Japanese people, they were reserved, serious, and organized. During the examination, they watched their children's performances like hawks, and were unobtrusive to a fault. Hardly any of them took pictures or videos of their children's performances. At first glance, they seemed cold and unloving. But they all worked together as a community, helping each other. And watching them interact with their children showed them to be supportive and loving parents.
|My son doing ukemi.|