1 First, the Winter    

It is said, "Without knowing winter in Atsuta, one is unable to understand the true Atsuta," so first of all, we will begin by writing about the winter. Of course, actual conditions cannot be known only by reading this page, but the reader can surely receive a sense of the experience of winter Atsuta.

Please imagine if you can, reader: riding a strong wind, like an enormous snowmaking machine working from the Sea of Japan the falling snow completely wipes out the field of vision. Students go up the last treacherous slope to school, twisting and devising the body so that the snowstorm may be received as indirectly as possible (do not misunderstand -- this does not occur every day). Being trained by the most severe teacher at Atsuta Junior High School, namely the great outdoors, students learn fortitude, cherish a warm heart and grow physically.

In the very act of overcoming such severe winter, a feeling of tranquility can emerge from nature.


Winter at Atsuta Junior High School on the Sea of Japan
The Winter Sports Festival - Making a snow figure
    2 The “Wriggling” Spring    

The Chinese character for "ugomeku" (wriggling) is very suggestive, as are similar meaning words written in the phonetic syllabary katakana. Both aptly describe the spring in Atsuta. Pillbugs in houses are described as “mozomozo.” (Although some people may be put off by them, at this school there are many girl students who throw them in the trash with their bare hands!) In the mountains, the noise made by people's hands rustling through bamboo grass looking for mountain vegetables is “gosogoso.” The bustling crowds of people who come to the morning market by the harbor to buy fresh fish and shellfish are “zorozoro.”
If one goes a short way up the mountain path opposite the school the outdoors become enlivened when the dogtooth violet blooms over the whole surface of the hills. Along with this, Atsuta students undertake the preparation of flower beds or planters. First the seed of a flower is raised to a seedling then the seedling is transplanted to a pot.
When seedlings grow up, they are used in the production of a class flower bed or a “traffic safety” planter. There is a designated landing space for emergency medical helicopters on the school grounds, so students arrange the planters on the roadside, writing “traffic safety” on them in the hope that these helicopters will seldom come.


Transplanting seedlings

Installing planters

   3 The Fleeting Summer (Putting Down Roots in the Neighborhood)    

With the big junior high field day festival barely finished and students just catching their breath work begins on Atsuta Junior High's famous “andon” paper lanterns. Fan-shaped and upwards of two meters in height, one side features the classic “neputa”-style design, while on the other side students choose the pattern and border and with much patience and care separately apply ink, wax, and color. On the evening of August 8 at the height of summer vacation, all the students participate in an andon procession as part of the village's summer festival. Along with other villagers they parade through town while pulling the lantern, ending up at the home for the elderly, “miyoshi-en” as the final destination. Here residents are treated to andon and “bon-odori” dancing, thoroughly enjoying traditional Japanese seasonal elegance as well as local warmth. Finally the andon are judged, the pronouncements coming with much cheering and sighing. But regardless of the results, Atsuta Junior High's andon are always a mainstay of summer in the village.


Making the andon paper lanterns

The andon procession
   4 The Fleeting Summer - Part 2 (Eyes Opening to the World)    

Atsuta Junior High School seeks to provide a foundation for daily life through community-building activities, focusing especially on broadening outlook and reexamining oneself. By interacting with people of differing cultures and customs and appreciating those differences we aim to consider what is right for ourselves.
Last year six trainee members of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JAICA) visited our Atsuta Junior High School. The focus of their study was water pollution so a visit to the abundant pristine waters of local Atsuta River was quite fitting. Students also engaged in group exchanges by asking questions concerning water conditions in each country, and much nodding of the head in agreement, great surprise and expressions of all sorts could be observed. After the group exchange there was a reproduction of Japanese summer festival in the gymnasium. The andon was lit up and everyone happily danced a bon-odori, including the trainees. Even students who were normally too shy were dancing, feeling a sort of Japanese rediscovery.
Although the exchange with students ended there, after the trainees ate lunch they continued their training in the village by traveling to the sewage treatment plant and the water purification plant as well as a Japanese rice field. While in the field the trainees, as if coming alive, asked a great number of questions of the proprietors, Mr. And Mrs. Fujita. Particularly impressed was Henry from Uganda who wondered, “Why isn't there a JAICA training center here?” It was an activity that allowed us to take a step forward towards harmonizing local and global understanding.


Group exchange with a JAICA trainee

A Bon festival dance with JAICA trainee
   5 Cultivated Abilities Put to the Test in Autumn    

Besides the events and festivals already introduced, there is a whole heap of wonderful things which make Atsuta Junior High special every day. In particular, elective subject, in which a small number of students engage in in-depth study, is becoming a pillar of academic improvement. In autumn the degree to which ability has been fostered by such everyday activities is measured, an example of which is the “wall newspaper.” At the Doo regional wall newspaper contest two years ago, Atsuta received first prize.
In this activity we all enjoy wondering if Atsuta Junior High will begin to become famous for its newspapers.



Scene from an elective science class

Wall newspaper first prize


This document, “Atsuta Junior High school introduction” was prepared by Mr. Noriaki Hashizume for Ishikari Education magazine, vol. 220.

English translation by David Buttrick.