Tuesday, December 19, 2006


By the year 2000, we had been homeschooling for a couple of years and found that we had a lot more time to study our focus country - throughout the year, not just at the holidays. What a fascinating world, full of more color and variety than we could have imagined. My young daughters were already fans of Japanese animation, and they were eager to learn more. So, we rolled up our sleeves early in the year and dived enthusiastically into our exploration of Japan!

I designed a workshop called "Three Days in Japan: Through the Two Foot Door." Each day, we learned a few phrases, some history, and did a hands on activity (origami, a mini zen garden, Kokeshi dolls.) We also tried out one of their traditional activites, like reading Haiku or having a Tea Ceremony. We actually constructed a "two foot door" - like those in a traditional Japanese Tea House - to crawl through and had we our tea on the floor. During these three days, my girls tried Japanese foods and became proficient with chopsticks; a skill that must be serving Senryu well as an exchange student in Asia! We read Japanese storuies, such as The Crane Wife, The Toungue-Cut Sparrow, and Momotaro Peach Boy. I would love an opportunity to repeat those three days with more participants, but as it was, the girls and I had a wonderful, memorable time, with little infant Sijo as a wide-eyed witness.

It is funny that we went from the reverance of an old world Christmas in Poland, which had me seeking the spiritual meaning of the season, to the commercial vibrance of Christmas in Japan, a nation that is less than 1% Christian, as I understand it. In Japan, all Christmas traditions are relatively new, and include a lot of color and glitz. They have something called "Christmas Cake" which is a big seller in December. Christmas 2000 was not the first year we had a cake ourselves, but I doubt most Japanese sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus over their cake as we did.

A meal of Yakitori (chicken, water chestnuts and scallions on skeweres), rice and tea made up an unusal menu for an American Christmas, but we were happy to spend those few hours "in Japan" while the girls wore their improvised Kimono's and our little Japanese doll, Setsu, looked on. Setsu's name came from a Pearl s. Buck novel, The Big Wave, about the impact of a Tsunami on a coastal village.

Japanese words and interests settled in for the long haul in our home. Though we moved on to another adopted country in the new year, in many ways we were never quite able to say Sayonara to Japan.

photos by Aisling, December 2006


Patty said...

The Japanese culture plays a big role in my daughter Melanies life. She is an anime lover. Her husband enjoys it too. They both speak some of the language, listen to J pop and eat the food : )
Much is to be learned from other cultures

Aisling said...

Patty, You are so right about how much we can learn from other cultures. I was/am particularly impressed with the attention to detail in many of the Japanese traditions - look at their food preparation as an example. In our culture, we are often to hurried for this much attention to detail. Thanks for visiting my blog!