Each session would begin with a brief introduction into Japan’s culture, history, physical landscape, language, customs, religions and artefacts. This would entail us learning how to bow, say hello (konichiwa), how to say our name (watashi no namae wa Mi Keni desu) and how to say thank you (arigatou). We then located Japan, discussing its historic flags and the fact that only 25% of Japanese land is inhabited. We discovered that Japan has double the population of England and that Tokyo is one of the most crowded places on the face of the planet. We learnt how Mount Fuji was created and how the terrible Tsunami of 2011 was produced. The pupils then discussed what is produced in Japan and how it relates to their ancient religion of Shintoism (the religion of 80 million gods). Finally we learnt about their distinctive customs such as the number 4 is extremely unlucky and that eating sloppily in pupil is massive no-no.
Year 3 then focused on the ancient poetry form of Haikus. This poetry was developed by a Samurai called Basho in the 17th century. Poetry at that time was seen as a true art form, only accessible to the elite, intelligent and the higher classes. To relate to Shinto teachings Haikus are of a simple form with only three lines and 17 syllables included.
After explaining this to the pupils and giving them some examples, it was their turn. In groups they created their own Haikus and then, using a Japanese alphabet, converted them into Japanese. I was amazed to see the children’s incredible imaginations and how much they enjoyed writing in a very distant language.