Sometime at the beginning of every school year (school starts in April) classes get out early and the teachers make the rounds to all their students' homes. It is quite a lot of work on the teacher's part. They have to map out where everyone lives, make routes, figure out the best means of transportation (cars are usually no good because not everyone will have enough parking), and then they have to inform all the parents as to when they'll arrive. The visits last only about ten minutes. But you figure there is also traveling time and that has got to be a royal pain in the butt to guess when you'll be at child number fifteen's house.
The consensus among foreign moms (and quite a few Japanese ones) is that it is a way to see what kind of environment the child is being raised. Which may be the case. I don't know. My Japanese friend told me last night that in some schools the teacher will actually ask to see the child's bedroom, to see his studying environment. My kid has a receipt he got while we were in America pinned to his wall. It came from when we were shopping with my mom. It's three feet long and the total is like three hundred dollars. He's so proud of that. What would his teacher think?
I believe the real anxiety comes, though, when you have to offer tea and (if you're really good) snacks. Timing is extremely difficult for foreigners in this country. At least it is for me.
I like J's teacher this year (same one as last year) so we had a nice visit. In the nine years (six elementary, three kindergarten) of katei homon I've only had one really doozy.
It was J's third year in kindergarten. A few months earlier we had rescued a couple of cats (sister and brother) from the beach and they were living with us. They were about that age...and it was spring. I don't know what exactly set them off. But two minutes after his teacher arrives they start making really strange noises, like someone is strangling a baby. You know what I'm talking about.
I'm in the kitchen pouring iced wheat tea and I look over to see J's teacher with her mouth hanging open, horrified. On the floor right in front of her my male cat has mounted my female cat and they are acting out their own little porno movie.
You know that is probably the first time I've ever seen anything like that myself and it's not attractive at all. The teeth, the silly hip movements, and good lord the noise! All I could remember from my youth is someone telling me "you're not supposed to pull them apart, it's dangerous." They may have been referring to dogs. I can't remember. And I can't remember why it supposed to be dangerous either. But I had to do something. I scooped them up tossed one in the bathroom and shut the door, the other in a bedroom and shut the door then returned to the meeting.
The next ten minutes I smiled politely at a very obviously pale kindergarten teacher and pretended I didn't hear the love sick wailing of a couple of cats in heat.
Here is a picture of the culprits at a less amorous moment.