Tex-Chan Has Me Outgunned!
"We lost, we always lose" is the last line of a famous American Western movie, but it could describe my test results rather accurately as well. I was sitting in front of my junior high guidance counsellor, staring at a report card which was clearly the product of spending too much time studying foreign films and not enough time studying math. I had long since become numb to my parents' lectures about improving my grades, but judging by what Mr. Maeda was saying I should have taken them more seriously.
"I'm going to be honest with you Goto-kun, you've set yourself up for failure. With these grades being admitted to Central High is a longshot at best. I think you probably need to start seriously considering other options." Mr. Maeda stated in a tone that made it clear "probably" was a nice way of saying "absolutely".
"But sir, there must be some way." I replied, "Everywhere else around here is a dead-end!" All you need to know about my hometown is that it was so far out in the boonies that most people from Shikoku would have considered us country bumpkins. With limited resources to go around, at some point in the past the school board had decided to put all its eggs in the basket named Central High. That was our "launch pad" school for the kids aiming for universities in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, or anywhere else that buses run more than once an hour, and its needs received top priority. The best that could be said for the few other options in the area was that they did in fact meet Japan's legal minimum standard for a high school education. At the time I still had vague dreams of attending film school in Tokyo or Los Angeles dancing in my head, and spending the next 3 years at a "safety net" institution would all but dash them.
"I won't tell my friends over at Meijigawa or South City High that you said that" Mr. Maeda stated sternly. Even if it was an open secret that Central was the favorite son, I suppose a school employee had to at least pretend the board loved everyone equally while speaking publicly. "I believe you'll find you can receive a better education around here than you think if you're willing to put more effort into learning. Why, over at Meijigawa...."
Mr. Maeda began to drone on about my other options. While he was trying to polish the turd of spending my high school years beating my head against a wall at some place out in the middle of a rice paddy that sent students to university in Tokyo about as often as it sent them to the Moon, I was desperately seeking some escape route. What are my odds of passing Central's entrance exam right now? Pitiful, and in my heart of hearts I knew it. Could I cram between now and the exam? No, I had too much ground to make up- at best I'd fail less spectacularly. Maybe I could go to one of the other schools and still find a way to a first-rate university 3 years from now? Perhaps everything will all work out in the end? I'm pretty sure that "Perhaps everything will work out in the end" was the same basic logic used by the Imperial Navy at Pearl Harbor, and look where they ended up 3 years later. I began to keenly regret the mountain of terrible life choices which had stuck me in this scenario.
"Damn it Goto-kun, have you been listening to anything I said? I don't know what kind of little world you live in where you don't even have to bother listening to an adult but still expect academic success on a silver platter!"
Mr. Maeda's tone snapped me back to reality and I began fumbling to recover my footing. "Please forgive me, sir. Yes, I do think Meijigawa or South City would ultimately be what I make of it, but-"
"But what? And this had better not be another hopeless longshot."
"Sir, what about-" I don't remember what I had planned to say, but suddenly a new idea hit me like a thunderbolt, "-what about my English score? My marks there were excellent, surely that must open doors somewhere!" I pointed to my report card to make my case, and nestled between a "yikes" in Math and an "ouch" in Science was a stellar grade in English. The one positive result of devoting my youth up until then to the study of Groucho Marx and Gary Cooper was the love it had fostered for learning English. Top-tier grades in that one subject had staved off the worst of my parents' wrath before, and I hoped I would be saved that way yet again.
"Hmmm. If you had put that same effort into your other subjects, entering Central would be a walk in the park. But this does remind me of something....." Mr. Maeda's voice trailed off as he dug around in his desk drawers looking for something. "An old colleague from my university days sent me a pamphlet for a school in Yokohama. They're looking for Japanese students, and you just might- here it is!"
A blue and gold pamphlet was slapped into my hands. Looking it over, what I saw was not what I was expecting. The text was all in English, and read as follows: "Perry International Preparatory School is looking for Japanese students to participate in our American-style curriculum! Receive a high school diploma recognized in Japan and the USA while fostering global understanding! Applications now open and scholarships are available!" I looked up at Mr. Maeda in confusion, "American-style curriculum? Global understanding? Sir, what is this place?"
"It's a high school for the children of American expats living in and around Kanagawa Prefecture. They operate similarly to a high school over in the USA, and on the American academic calendar. My friend told me Perry Prep recently sorted things out with the prefecture to receive Japanese academic accreditation as well. It seems the school wants to bring in local students to help the American kids escape their little cultural bubble. The only major requirement is that students need English language proficiency- which is the one thing you have."
"But sir, it's in Yokohama! I'd have to leave home on Saturday to get there in time for Monday classes!"
"Check the next page, Goto-kun. It's a boarding school. Some of the students' parents travel regularly for business, so Perry established a dormitory to help those families out. If you can get a scholarship, your parents wouldn't be spending any more to send you there than they would to send you to any school around here."
Mr. Maeda had answered nearly all of my concerns, but one last thing still bothered me. "I've never been that far from home alone before, sir."
"It's Perry Prep or Meijigawa High. End of story."
"When and where is Perry's entrance exam, sir?"