Celebrating Seven Years of Genuine Japanese Cultural Experiences
by Dr. Joseph Amato, Director, International Center for Japanese Culture
Strolling through the streets of a major Japanese city today, one would see the same sights as in any other modern large city - darting cars, bustling sidewalks, familiar restaurants, and neon glow. From clothing, food and architecture, to sports, movies and music, the ubiquitous nature of modernity is as plentiful as it is in New York, London and Paris. The cultural revolution that first impacted the island nation during the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th Century slowly but steadily nudged the centuries-old traditions and arts away from the fore, giving way to modernization.
The International Center for Japanese Culture (ICJC) at YIS has been bringing Japanese traditional arts and culture back to the forefront, however, through student learning and dynamic education. Established in 2011, the ICJC is designed to help students as well as the greater YIS community explore and appreciate Japan's rich, unique culture through curriculum enhancement programs, music and arts education programs, hands-on workshops, Yokohama historical tours, and lectures by special guests. Students have rare opportunities to study various traditional and modern Japanese arts and culture that interweave with the fabric that underlies the traditions of our host country. The ICJC's vision to offer innovative programs about Japan and its culture intimately reflects the philosophy of the International Baccalaureate mission statement – to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
The 2017-2018 school year marks the seventh anniversary of the ICJC, ushering in new and expanded curriculum enhancement programs across the whole school body. We welcome back Suzanne Ross, urushi (lacquerware) artist, and Richard Flavin, washi (Japanese paper) artist, to work with students in the elementary school and high school. Hands-on workshops will also be offered for Japanese archery, calligraphy, cooking, traditional dance, flower arranging, sumo, tea ceremony and much more.
The ICJC's unique role at YIS and in the world of K-12 international education is rare, if not one of a kind. Students can step back centuries in time to experience the marvel of using traditional tools to make delicate lacquerware boxes, or serve green tea and traditional sweets as was done in the days when Tokyo was still known as Edo. As a school, we are preparing our students for the future, for careers, for leadership, and for them to be citizens. Just as importantly, we are teaching them to be human beings who can appreciate the finer nuances of aesthetics, artistic aptitude, and posterity. The ICJC fosters these traits through genuine cultural experiences in a land that is acclaimed for its ability to create beauty in all that it does.