Another obituary: My Osaka alma mater

My first trip to Japan was to spend a year in the Rotary Youth Exchange program at a high school in Osaka. The school hosting me was Ogimachi Senior High, which closed its old campus earlier this year in order to prepare for a 2010 merger with Konohana Sogo Senior High. (The two schools will share a new campus near Nishi-Kujo for the next two years.)

Ogimachi was founded in 1921 as a girls’ high school in the Ogimachi district of northern Osaka, just east of Umeda. After the school was destroyed by American bombers in 1945, it wandered around nomad-like to temporary facilities in Temma and Horikawa before getting a new dedicated facility in Dojima, west of Umeda, in 1948. It became co-educational at that time by swapping students with Osaka Senior High School.

The school moved to a new campus on Nakanoshima (between the Rihga Royal Hotel and the science museum) in 1957, and was still located there when I was a student. By that time, the place was basically falling apart: we could peel the tiles from the floor. It was miserably hot in the summer, when only the computer room and language learning lab had air conditioning, and miserably cold in the winter, when we had to hurriedly warm our hands over a gas heater between classes just to keep holding our pencils for the next hour.

As the state of repair might indicate, Ogimachi was not a very high-grade school. I was in the “humanities course,” which sort of resembled what Americans would call a magnet program, but even the kids in that course were lower-middle-class at best and didn’t have particularly high academic or career aspirations. This shattered many of my preconceptions about Japanese education, since I had always assumed (in my teenaged intellectual shell) that they had high levels of ambition in order to put up with the rigmarole of crazy exams.

I try to keep in touch with classmates when I can, and had a chance to meet many of them again at a reunion a couple of years ago. (This was the trip during which I photographed Mount Fuji from the plane.) They were all basically shocked to hear that I was working in Japan, and even moreso to hear that I was working at a law firm in Tokyo. Nearly a decade since we went to school together, here’s where they are:

  • Two, who I always considered to be “goofy,” are working as salesmen at a pharmaceutical company in Osaka (I went out drinking with them when they visited Tokyo for a trade show). They were into fishing when we went to school together, but have since switched hobbies to motorcycles.
  • One is a JR conductor. At our reunion people were egging him to recite announcements for various trains (e.g. “Do the Yamatoji Rapid Service!”)
  • One, who I always considered to be the most intelligent (a Chinese kid from Shanghai who spoke perfect English in addition to Japanese and Chinese dialects), sells AU phones in Shinsaibashi.
  • One very otaku-ish girl, who was in the art club and kendo club, is now apparently in the Self-Defense Forces. (I had a crush on her back then and I think the SDF bit has made it stronger.)
  • The Judo Nazi, who I wrote about in my very first post at Mutantfrog, has disappeared and nobody seems to know what happened to him.
  • My two best friends from the school are working as a social worker and a truck driver.

Anyway, it saddens me to know that one of the key institutions which introduced me to Japan will soon be no more. It saddens me even more to know that the post-merger school will have one of the most obnoxious names ever conceived for a school: “Saku Ya Kono Hana Senior High” (咲くやこの花高等学校).

Oh well, there goes what little alumni pride I had. At least I can still say I went to Carnage Middle School (albeit for about six months).

10 thoughts on “Another obituary: My Osaka alma mater”

  1. “One very otaku-ish girl, who was in the art club and kendo club, is now apparently in the Self-Defense Forces. (I had a crush on her back then and I think the SDF bit has made it stronger.)”

    I don’t know how much you are into anime, but is she like Sousuke in Full Metal Panic?

  2. Great post.

    Not knowing the girl in question, I`ll still ventue to answer Brian`s question – no, she isn`t.

  3. I don’t know jack about anime, but based on a quick glance at Wikipedia I also have to say no. Any traits in particular that you were thinking of, Brian?

  4. Well, in anime, the character I mention tend to be out of the ordinary high school students. Somewhat similar to the girl mention in the blog post.

  5. You’re an Osaka lad too, Joe? How long were you there? I was in the sticks… Ishibashi/Minoo.

    “the character I mention tend to be out of the ordinary high school students”

    What is an ordinary high school student? I’m serious. I know bugger all about anime/manga too (although I know M-bone is probably the resident expert), but I also know that most anime depictions tend to be stereotypes (otaku/gyaru etc.). So if there are no normal types in anime, what, exactly is an “out of the ordinary high school student.”

  6. Great post. My turn: at my last reunion in Shogatsu 2006, the thing that I overwhelmingly noticed, as a guy who is inherently ambitious, that all of them had become very boring. Not that they were ever that exciting, but no one had real ambition to do great things in life. Many of the girls became school teachers, a few OLs, a few company workers — and then most of the guys had become pretty boring too, working at companies as standard salarymen, one high school gym teacher, and one chronically unemployed.

    Of course, my US high school isn’t much different.

  7. The character in question grew up on a Middle East battlefield and is later sent to Japan on a secret mission. He `lives war` and can`t so much as go to the loo without checking for claymore mines. He can`t function in regular soceity. This is pretty annoying in the regular Full Metal Panic series, but in the spoof series Fumofu, there is a fantastic Full Metal Jacket parody where the student decides to coach the local rugby team.

    In any case, most young people interested in joining the SDF have some combinaton of weapon fetish, sincere desire to help people through disaster relief, and want of a stable job. `Rescue Wings` is an anime that actually has a very realistic depiction of Jieitai motivations and the life path in general.

    `Of course, my US high school isn’t much different.`

    Nobody in jail? My Canadian grade school class has produced 2 MDs, 3 PhDs, 3 guys in and out of jail, and 2 junkies (out of 20 students).

  8. “My Canadian grade school class has produced 2 MDs, 3 PhDs, 3 guys in and out of jail, and 2 junkies (out of 20 students).”

    Well, my junior high class has produced a more divergent — 3 PhDs, 3 lawyers, and 4 chronically unemployed, out of 18….

  9. Some photos I got in Osaka yesterday:

    Ogimachi Senior High

    Ogimachi Senior High

    (That’s the Rihga Royal Hotel in the background, very fancy place.)

    I reckon Osaka is probably selling the land to a private-sector developer. It has to be very valuable–there are new developments springing up all around it. I almost couldn’t recognize anything on the walk from the train station to the school. A lot has changed in central Osaka in the last eight years.

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