There’s a song called “When I become a first grader” which will bring a smile to any grandparent’s face when they hear it. Written in 1966, it still resonates. Here’s my rough translation of the lyrics:
When I become a first-grader, I’m going to make 100 new friends We’ll all eat lunch together And munch on onigiri at the top of Mt. Fuji When I become a first-grader, I’m going to make 100 new friends We’ll run together All through Japan, Here we go! When I become a first-grader, I’m going to make 100 new friends We’ll all laugh together And that gleeful laughter will be heard worldwide Ha ha ha!
When my daughter became a pika pika no ichinensei the grandparents of that time were bemoaning the fact that first-graders no longer knew how to sharpen a pencil using a razor blade. Apparently there used to be a razor blade in every school child’s pencil box so that they could sharpen their pencils as needed. A forgotten skill and elementary students carrying razor blades is pretty unimaginable these days.
- onigiri – おにぎり Usually translated as rice ball, they are traditional picnic food and can be found in every conbini in Japan. The fillings vary from very traditional to wild. And everyone’s always looking for the next onigiri trend. They are usually wrapped in seaweed. This is a good one to google if you are unfamiliar.
- pika pika – ぴかぴか One of the many onomatopoeic Japanese expressions. A new penny is pika pika as is anything shiny and new.
- ichinensei – いちねんせい a first-grader. It could be at an elementary school, but is also used for the first years of junior high, high school, and college, though usually modified to indicate which level of school.