The world of night school in Japan is so detached from mainstream society that many people are clueless as to the role it plays.
“Yes, people often come to me and ask what it is,” says Ruri Sawai, a retired night school teacher. “It’s almost as if they were being told of some imaginary creature they can’t quite visualize.”
A film festival in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward might help clue people in when it screens four movies about the night school system.
Yasuyuki Mori’s 2003 documentary “Konbanwa” (“Good Evening”) introduces the struggles and triumphs of night school students, many of whom had to exit the compulsory-education system prematurely. Reasons for this include poverty, illness and other unavoidable personal circumstances. For instance, one group, in their 60s and older, missed out on school the first time around due to postwar confusion.
Other students in “Konbanwa” include immigrants who weren’t able to complete their education back home. The demographic of night school students has been skewing increasingly non-Japanese in recent years, with statistics showing that around 80 percent of students are now of foreign nationality.
One student who appears in the documentary, a former shut-in nicknamed “Shin-chan,” will give a talk on the second day of the festival to explain how evening classes helped him overcome his reclusive tendencies.
Others films to be screened include a 1993 documentary by Yoji Yamada titled “Gakko” (“A Class to Remember”). It’s a heart-warming story of how a crew of so-called social pariahs battle adversity while studying at night school.
“Studying, in essence, is a true joy and school is supposed to be a paradise both for pupils and teachers,” Yamada said in a statement ahead of the festival.
“Yakan Chugaku Eigasai (Night Junior High School Film Festival)” takes place at Theater Pole-Pole in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, from Feb. 7 to 13. Films screen from 10:10 a.m. Tickets prices vary from ¥500-¥1,300. For more information, visit ameblo.jp/yakaneiga (Japanese only).