When my daughter became of age to attend daycare, I became acquainted with the municipal hoikuen system. It’s Japan, so you can just bet it was highly organized. And from Day 1 I knew I was going to have a charenji with it despite my oral language abilities.
It was the darned renrakuchō that had to be filled out each and every day. It went back and forth between daycare and home so that we’d all know exactly what was going on with my daughter. Some of it simply involved checking a few boxes, but it asked for details on dinner, breakfast, how long she’d slept, bowel movements (consistencies!), bathing, mood, and health. On their part they’d report back on what she ate, how long she napped, toileting, health and activities or special notes. Thanks to that, I know exactly what my daughter did 35 years ago, today:
It did not occur to me to write my response in eigo though I often jotted down our meals using English words I thought they would recognize. Nor did it occur to me to foist this off on my daughter’s otōsan. It was a job for mama and I stepped up. But…. dear readers, I did lie sometimes. The thing is, our dinners were not always something I could be proud of. There were a lot of dinners of just yakisoba. I did not think that would pass muster as a proper dinner so I’d enter it as yasai itame, which just sounded better than a noodle dinner. Breakfast also was embarrassing since my daughter wouldn’t eat much. Too many times it was just jūsu and a banana. I imagined other mothers were doing better. But the staff at the hoikuen never said a word.
Renrakuchō were part of my life for many years. When my daughter attended shōgakkō in Tokyo the first graders also had them, at least weekly. My son had one at his Japanese preschool in New Jersey and they continued to be a charenji for me.
I imagine this may be all online now or by email. The hobosan put a lot of work into making the covers of the renrakuchō so they now serve as fond omoide for me.
- hoikuen – 保育園 daycare center
- charenji – チャレンジchallenge
- renrakuchō – 連絡帳 a notebook that goes back and forth between institution and parents so that they always know what the child is doing and how they are. Can be very detailed!
- eigo -英語 English (language)
- otōsan – お父さん father. This is what a child would call their father, or perhaps Papa.
- yakisoba – 焼きそば a fried noodle dish that can be kind of junk food.
- yasai itame – 野菜炒め literally stir-fried vegetables. Considered to be a proper dinner dish, though you’d want to be sure there was also protein involved.
- jūsu – ジュース juice
- shōgakkō – 小学校 elementary school. Japanese elementary school goes from Grades 1-6 in most cases. After WW2 the American system of the time was thrust upon them so that they still have three years of junior high and three years of high school.
- hobosan – 保母さん a daycare worker
- omoide – 思い出 memory or memories. A word that is used very often in Japan as omoide are considered very precious.