by Michele Steele

Walking down the hill to the station, I encountered a pack of high school kids, mostly boys, riding their bicycles to school. Their faces were glistening with perspiration from the effort of riding in the early morning heat. They wore blazers and striped ties, the uniforms I have been told are worn by the students who go to low-level high schools. This is a great tragedy of school uniforms – the social hierarchy that is established as a result, the marking at such an early age. These kids are said to be the ones who never studied and who care nothing about responsibility.

I looked into their faces, watched the evident strain as they pumped their legs to propel their bicycles up the slope, saw in their eyes an earnestness, an inextinguishable determination to reach their destination. In that moment they were the greatest winners in the world, and I loved them all.

Michele Steele has been involved with JALT for over fifteen years, almost as long as she has lived in Gunma. She works as a university instructor, primarily at Gunma Women’s Prefectural University.