Japanese Culture in Hollis
We brought some Japanese culture to Hollis, Queens, which is notable for having some past famous residents such as Russell Simmons, and members of Run DMC, who created the rap song, Christmas in Hollis. We conducted our Explore Japanese Culture Program at the Nathaniel Woodhull School PS35Q in Hollis. Interestingly, we were invited to the school by the assistant principal Mr. Ryu Mizutani who is Japanese and volunteered with us a long time ago when he was a graduate student in New York.
We were happy to visit a new borough because our goal is to reach more remote communities that have little exposure or access to Japanese culture. The school is located a bus ride away from the last stop on the F train. Before the Christmas break we visited the school to give them a basic introduction to Japan and to also get to know the children whose families also came from different countries including Guyana, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, and Jamaica to name a few.
We provided our program to three 5th grade classes, so we showed them what it is like at a Japanese elementary school and as with most of the other kids we teach, they were fascinated by the fact that children had to clean toilets at their school, serving lunch, and so many rules such as no wearing of accessories or styling their hair. They learned that their assistant principal cleaned toilets when he was younger. Their interest in Japanese culture and their receptiveness and hospitality was wonderful.
In the beginning of this year, we went back to the school to expose them to Japanese art culture. We taught them calligraphy, first giving them a brief background on the Japanese characters, including hiragana, katakana and kanji to provide a basic understanding of Japanese reading and writing. We showed the proper technique of holding a calligraphy brush and then had them practice writing the kanji character "tomo" meaning friend. After practice they then wrote their final attempts on calligraphy paper. They also signed their art in katakana to complete their masterpieces.
We ended our session with each of the classes by teaching them how to draw the Japanese character Mario from the Nintendo game Mario Brothers. We used a musical jingle that explains how to draw Mario and we also had a visiting Japanese art major who was studying abroad in the US to help us out. We got some interesting results from the project, which is great as each individual has their own creative way of doing and expressing things.
Thank you to the 5th graders of Nathaniel Woodhull School for being such wonderful students of Japanese culture and open minded. We will see you again soon.