Last week was the 終業式（しゅうぎょうしき；closing ceremony）for the 2nd trimester at the school where I worked. For me, it marked more than just the end of a school term.
It was my final day as an ALT for the foreseeable future.
In future posts, I'll probably get into how I'm earning money now, or why the timing to walk away was right, but today I just want to talk about saying goodbye, and ways to go about it.
In Japan, employees for most large companies and for the government are used to getting shuffled around between posts. They move from store to store, office to office, sometimes accompanied by pretty big geographical moves too, so they have a lot of practice at saying "Welcome" to the new-comers and "Farewell" to the leavers.
Sometimes there are parties that accompany comings and goings:
歓迎会 (かんげいかい；kangeikai) for Welcome.A lot of times, one party will actually serve both functions. Out with the old, in with the new in one fell alcohol-fueled swoop.
送別会（そうべつかい；soubetsukai) for So Long.
When there is no party, in the case of my school (where the students who I wanted to say goodbye to wouldn't have been allowed to attend anyhow,) you can do what they call
お別れ（おわかれ；owakare）And since the school was kind enough to work an お別れ into the school's closing ceremony, I was asked for
別れる means to separate, to part, or to divide. It's the same word used to describe break-ups from boyfriends or girlfriends. When you stick an honorific on the front of it, you can use it to refer to any kind of formal farewell moment.
So, without writing out my whole farewell speech for you, I wanted to hit the key phrases and words that you should know how and when to use.
お別れの言葉 (ことば；kotoba) Parting words.
お別れの挨拶 (あいさつ：aisatsu) Farewell speech.
お世話になりました。Meaning "You took care of me," with an "I am indebted to you," nuance.
Stick a 大変 on the front to add gravity.
Like よろしくお願いします、you can also use お世話になります in advance when you first meet someone who you hope to have a good relationship with. I think I first introduced お世話になる on this blog when talking about getting into a stranger's car.
今までありがとうございました。Translating as "Thanks for everything up until this point," you might feel inclined to use this just like you would use "色々ありがとうございました," or "いつも、ありがとうございます," but you're gonna want to be careful with it, because the "今まで" makes it OH so FINAL. This is what you say at the end of a relationship, and it indicates that there won't be a continuation of the same relationship beyond this point. I used it in my speech because I wasn't going to be their teacher anymore. People use it for their interpersonal relationships too though, and if someone you're dating ever says it to you, it doesn't mean "I appreciate you." It means "It's over."
You can look up advice on how to give a farewell speech in Japanese online, and most of the sites will tell you that you don't want to dwell on sad stuff or how sorry you are to be leaving. Instead you should go with 前向き (まえむき;forward-looking; positive).
So I was sure to incorporate another staple of Japanese farewell speeches,
またお会いしましょう。Let's meet again. You can change the formality level of this one to suit your needs. When I'm writing to a business contact, I'll say "またお会いできる日を楽しみにしております" to keep it humble. When I was saying it to the kids, I said "また会いましょう。"
For even less formal, "また会おう" works just fine.
If you're looking for how to say goodbye to your school, or your Japanese co-workers, but you're still a beginner, I'd recommend using those 3 key phrases just like that. Try tacking them onto the end of an English goodbye speech, and the Japanese listeners will be happy that you made the effort.
I wrestled with my speech for a handful of reasons. Most of the kids had never heard me speak Japanese, so I mixed in some local dialect to get their attention, and to lighten the mood a little bit. I also came close to tears (泣きそうになった）, because these kinds of ceremonies are big on being "moving," so just getting the words out was rough.
It was an amazing school, and an amazing group of kids. I ended the speech by telling them that I WANTED to say keep working hard and studying English, but that I wasn't going to, because I knew they'd do it on their own anyway. Cheesy, I know, but I really meant it. I told them I was looking forward to coming back and seeing their 成長（せいちょう；growth, progress) and of course, the one thing that I was happiest to be able to say honestly:
I'll never forget the memories that we made together. I'll never forget you.
Thanks for reading!
Next time, TV!