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Bridging Islands and Cultures

Bridging Islands and Cultures
Bailey Jamile

Aloha, Konnichiwa!

Tuesday was a day marked by curiosity, collaboration, and cultural exchange! Our third and fourth grade students had the honor of hosting a group of fourth graders from Tsukuba University Elementary School in Japan. There was a palpable excitement amongst our students as soon as they got word that it was time to meet our new friends and escort them back to our classrooms. It was a coming together of different worlds, each eager to learn from the other.

Our new friends graciously took the lead in presenting unique aspects of their culture. They introduced us to a variety of traditional Japanese games and activities, which allowed us to better understand their rich history. Below is an overview of everything they shared with us.

Ayatori
Our new friends, Momoka, Sumire, and Ema, talked about their favorite activity, Ayatori. Ayatori, better known as the “Cat’s Cradle,” is a traditional game played with a large loop of string. This game has been passed down through generations. Intricate and detailed patterns are created by carefully weaving the string around your fingers. Our students were so proud of themselves for creating different patterns.

Fukuwarai
Our friend, Sara, taught us how to play Fukuwarai. Fukuwarai is translated to mean “Lucky Laugh,” and this is a classic Japanese game played during special festivities or holidays. In this game, players are blindfolded and asked to place paper cutouts of facial features onto a blank face to create a hilarious and often distorted image. We all had a good laugh at my attempt!

Origami
Our friends Ken, Ryuden, and Osuke, taught us all about Origami! This ancient art of paper folding was definitely a favorite amongst the children. Tsukuba students took the class through the process, step-by-step. We were able to fold a variety of different designs, like a kabuto (samurai helmet), a crane, and a frog. Sara shared that the crane is a very important symbol in Japanese culture, representing good fortune, honor, and longevity.

Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana
Our friend Osuke, talked about the history of the Japanese writing system, specifically Katakana and Hiragana. We also learned that Kanji, the characters that represent concepts or ideas, originated from the Chinese language. Osuke even quizzed us on how to write different Japanese words in Kanji!

After a nice snack and recess together, it was our turn to share a little bit about our Sphero program. Our students were eager and ready to demonstrate all they knew about coding, free-driving, and steering the Sphero bots. One Tsukuba student shared that he was so happy to try this because at their school, they do not have a formal technology or robotics class to participate in these types of activities. We all had so much fun.

Below are some thoughts your children shared with me during our debrief:

“I really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture.” - B.F.

“A Japanese student named Sara taught me and my tablemates how to play Fukuwarai. After you place the face parts, most of the time, the parts are placed in the wrong places. It’s hilarious.” - H.F.

“I enjoyed learning about our guests and what they like to do for fun.” - Z.G.

“It was cool that they sang an aloha song to us.” - E.K.

“I enjoyed getting to know about them, like their culture and names. It was nice when they sang a song in English. I felt bad that we couldn’t sing ours in Japanese!” - E.Q.

“Rio taught me how to write 1-10 in Japanese and I had fun playing kickball with them. Osuke is really good!” - K.S.

To end the day, we shared songs in the dining room and took a group picture out at Aloha Hill. Our new friends let us know that if we ever wanted to plan a trip to Japan to visit their school, they would be more than happy to host us! Maybe one day!

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