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Japan-America Society of Hawaii Japan Day Spring 2021

(L-R) Instructor Hideaki Oshima shows how to use the soroban (abacus); His student demonstrates addition of multi-digit numbers.

JASH held its Spring Japan Day program sponsored by the McInerny Foundation and the Freeman Foundation during the months of April through May 2021 via interactive video tutorials featuring karate, manga, Peace Studies/Sadako Sasaki Story and soroban. Approximately 270 students from Hilo High School, Kailua High School, Lanai High School, Maui Hui Malama, Moanalua High School, Molokai High School, Nanakuli High School, and Washington Middle School participated in the virtual Japan Day program this spring. Held twice a year, Japan Day is JASH’s longest running educational program which is offered free to Hawaii’s middle and high schools. Since its inception in 1993, over 7,200 students from 65 different public and private schools have participated in this educational event.

With the inability to hold in-person programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic this past school year, JASH transformed the conventional Japan Day program to a virtual offering so that students can experience Japanese culture and art remotely from their homes or classrooms. In addition to two video segments on karate and manga we produced last year, we invited two more volunteer instructors to lead workshops on Peace Studies/Sadako Sasaki Story and soroban (Japanese abacus) this spring.

The links for the four video segments were shared with the schools invited to participate in the Japan Day program. Generous funding from the McInerny Foundation has enabled JASH to produce high-quality videos of select Japanese cultural activities and expand the Japan Day program to include more schools, thereby impacting more students. Additional funding from the Freeman Foundation allowed more neighbor island schools to participate virtually as well.

Through virtual Japan Day, students are encouraged to follow the video lessons and get hands-on experience in Japanese arts and culture by participating in the activities while they watch. Japan Day also illustrates how art and culture in different societies can influence and enhance people’s lives, and how these cultural values are perpetuated by devotees of the arts. A student from Hilo High School commented in the post-program survey, “I thought it was all very interesting and taught me a lot of new stuff. I also like how all the lessons had interactive parts so you could try and make cranes and do katas and be that more in with the culture.” Another student also wrote, “(Japan Day) really opened my eyes to the similarities and differences Western and Japanese culture share and how they are connected in Hawaii specifically.”

Instructor Naomi Hirano Omizo leads interactive quizzes to teach about the story of Sadako Sasaki and world peace.

JASH would like to thank the generous sponsors of Japan Day: The McInerny Foundation and the Freeman Foundation. In addition, a big MAHALO to the volunteer experts for their dedication to the program: Mr. Jordan Silva from the Japan International Karate Center for the karate session, Mr. Kazuo Maekawa, professional manga artist for his manga drawing lesson, Mr. Hideaki Oshima from the Araki Hiroya Soroban School for the soroban tutorial, and Mrs. Naomi Hirano-Omizo for Peace Studies/Sadako Sasaki Story segment.

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