Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Furiai Hiroba--Fall Festival

Last Saturday was the Fall Festival day at my kids' elementary school--and I actually had time to take some pictures this year since all three of my kiddos are in elementary school and were participating.  The stated mission of their school is to allow kids to "live in green and nature".  The fall festival is part of that goal--and I, for one, think they do an outstanding job of achieving it. 

The first-graders (my daughter's class) gathered thin boughs that were bent into circles to make wreaths. 

They also collected acorns, pine cones, berries, and leaves (some of which they spray-painted gold and silver) and brought sequins and ribbons from home
for decoration. 

The room was decorated with the wreaths, shapes, and origami that the kids had made themselves...

...and all the first-graders wore Fall Hats they made the week before, decorated with leaves and acorns and such they'd collected on walks outside (I love it that they don't spend all day sitting in the classroom:)).

Mommy's wreath:))

At an event like this, the parents, grandparents, siblings and friends are the "patrons" or "customers" who go from room to room making the crafts and playing the games that the children have prepared.  Cici's job was to seat people and show them where all the materials were, and let them know that the glue gun was hot:))

In the second grade rooms, "customers" could play various games the children had devised with acorns or make tops or bracelets or Acorn Men (helped by the children).  Teddy liked it so much, he brought extra acorns home to make more Acorn Tops out of an acorn and a toothpick  (needed a little help with the hammer, though, making the hole:)

Teddy drilling the hole to make Acorn Man
(they still trust kids in Japan to do things carefully, and there wouldn't likely be a lawsuit in the event of an injury...)

Acorn Man!

an acorn bracelet
Acorn spinner

The third graders marched all over the school in dragon costumes, banging Taiko drums and dancing.
They were having so much fun, I wanted to join them...:))

Third grade Koshi-Dragon!

The fifth graders were working with rice straw, and anybody who wanted to could go in to learn how to weave a horse or a frog (So. Cute!)  from straw.  The fifth grade boy I watched making a horse was really good at it--his actions smooth and quick, with few extraneous motions, as though he'd made a bunch of them and was now quite a proficient.  It was a pleasure to watch him, and it seemed to me that such opportunities for mastery are unfortunately few and far between in modern schooling.  Keep that in mind, next time you're listening to some body's Back to Basics rant...

Called "Wara Zaiku" in Japanese, the kids made posters spelling out the word from rice straw letters (Wa, Ra, Za, I, Ku, left to right).

A woven rice straw horse (Koshi made one of these, too)...

...and the Frog (my favorite!)

...wooden hammers, tree stump workbenches, and pans of water to soften the straw for working.  It's nice to take a field trip to watch somebody making things, but so much more fun to learn how your own self!

And the sixth graders?  They made lunch!  Delicious Tonjiru made with sweet potatoes they'd grown and picked themselves.  In fact, Koshi's first Festival four years ago (when he was a first grader) was the first time I'd ever had Tonjiru.  It was an unusually cold day, and raining off and on to boot, so that hot soup tasted nothing short of sublime:))  It tasted so good, I asked how to make it--and made it at home the first chance I got!


My bowl of soup--they make theirs with pork, onion, daikon, carrot, sweet potato, gobo, and konyaku.  Several more things than I put in when I make it myself, but delicious and filling nonetheless.
Properly dressed in aprons and 'kerchiefs

We were graciously served by the sixth graders themselves, who brought tea first, then the soup.

...tea and simple, lovely table decorations arranged by the kids from wildflowers they'd picked out around the school...

Quite a deal for fifty cents!

All in all, a lovely morning, enjoyed by parents and children alike:))

Next:  What the Fourth Graders Did (or:  Fun With Bamboo and How To Make Charcoal)

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. I love that the Japanese, from what you show, seem intent on letting kids be kids. From what I can see (admittedly as a non-parent) kids in the west seem to get forced earlier and earlier into a kind of proto-adulthood. And I can guarantee that if a school round here organised an event where the children walked around banging drums, so kill-joy would be on the phone complaining within minutes. Sad, but true. From your comment about drilling a hole, they seem to be avoiding the compensation culture too. Good for them, I say!

    I love the straw animals. I really want to learn that!

    One thing: What's with the masks in the kitchen?

  2. They do let kids be kids--and yet, somewhat paradoxically, Japanese kids always seem more "adult" in some ways that American kids. Not all American kids, of course, just in general. By elementary school they've achieved a pretty high level of responsibility towards younger children (very gentle, and good at teaching how to do things or what the rules are). It's (I think) the Culture of Cute versus the Culture of Cool that American kids are forced into. Sometimes American kids seem to me to be trying to hard to be "cool", to act older than they are in order to *seem* cool, to project a general aura of apathy or boredom (especially about learning) so as not to seem like a geek. Cuteness and Genki-ness (lively, happy, healthy--that word has a number of related meanings) are prized over here, and it shows in the general attitude of kids.

    I got some video of one of the kids making the straw horse, but it's not all that clear, so I didn't put it up. I could probably email it to you, though (?).

    Masks--colds are going around, and the kids are serving food, hence the masks. Actually, the kids take turns being lunch servers everyday, and the servers wear masks (kids tend to forget to cover mouths when coughing or sneezing--so it's a sensible precaution:)) Actually, the Japanese are in general very clean. Kids are taught and encouraged from the time they can reach a sink to wash hand thoroughly and to gargle. When Koshi was in soccer, the coach would remind the kids to "wash hands and gargle!" as soon as they got home from practice--which Koshi dutifully did. It does cut down somewhat on colds. It's also partly because of the population density and use of public transportation. Don't even ask what the Japanese (my husband *cough*) think of the Chinese in that regard...

  3. Ah, the Kult of Kool. In the far off days of my yoof that was something we hit at around age 15. Seems to hit around 10-ish now, and getting earlier all the time.

    I'd love a copy of the video thanks :-)

    I take it your hubby gets quite expansive on the subject then?

  4. I'll attempt to send it:)) And you're right--the Cult of Cool hits way too young (why would anyone want their 9-year-old to dress like Brittany Spears? Why would anyone dress like Brittany Spears?)

    I never mention the Chinese, if I can help it;-))

  5. Why would anyone want to do anything like Brittany Spears? Unless the other choice is Sarah Palin of course. (Michael Palin really should sue her for dragging a perfectly good surname through the mud.)

  6. i want to make both an acorn man AND a straw frog! Those are awesome!

  7. The frog was my favorite--but we didn't get there early enough for me to sit down and learn how to do it (wah!). But I know quite a few of the fifth graders, and I'm thinking maybe I can get one of them to show me:)) For the acorn man--if you have a sharp awl, you can drill little holes for the arms and legs. Then put toothpicks in (sharp end into the hole), and color with permanent marker. Depending on where you put the holes, you can make him sitting or standing.