Our final activity in Kumamoto was by far one of my favorite parts of the trip. We visited the kindergarten class at a Lutheran school near the Kumamoto Ooe Church. There were dozens of kindergarteners, all excited to see us. Mothers of the kindergarteners sat in the back of the room and watched the class. There were multiple teachers who helped control the restless children. At the beginning of class, the students stood and turned around to welcome us.
It was a very special day for the kindergarteners. Today, the class celebrated all the students' birthdays that were in April and May. Each student was called to the front and wore a hat with the face of Kumamon the panda, who is the mascot of Kumamoto. After all the kindergarteners were called to the front, our own April and May birthdays joined them. Dr. Hancock, having a May birthday, was among those who were recognized. The kindergarteners sang a Japanese birthday song for everybody with April and May birthdays.
The kindergarteners prepared Japanese songs to perform for us. Although we didn't know the words, we clapped and hummed along. Once they had finished, a group of Wartburg students went up front and sang for the children. We sang songs such as "Old McDonald" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." For the grand finale, we all sang "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" and the Wartburg College Loyalty song.
As a music education major, I enjoyed the visit very much. The Japanese kindergarteners were very much like American kindergarteners: restless, excitable, and very cute. They all enjoyed singing and dancing to their favorite songs and some joined our actions when we sang. I don't think anybody could help smiling when the kindergarteners greeted us or how much they clapped after we sang for them. This was an enriching experience not just for music educators, but for the entire band.