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Jul 20

….continued “Rebecca-sensei’s Easter Party”

 

Theme parties are big in Japan. My juku teachers asked if I could do an Easter party. They were especially interested in egg painting. Since egg dyeing kits aren’t available in Japan, the teachers used their own resources and created beautifully colored eggs from nature using wild berries, certain flowers, and other concoctions to create beautiful colors.

I suggested a few games and some art projects. They were quite giddy with the lesson content. I spent some time putting all my supplies together—Peter Cottontail coloring pages, glue, cotton balls, song sheets, and story pages. I printed the lyrics and devised a “conga-line” to accompany the Cottontail song. The teachers were in charge of hard boiling the eggs and dyeing them, as well as providing the color pens and other craft items we needed. I asked them to have 4 large soup spoons on hand for a surprise game I had in mind”.

The launch of Rebecca-sensei’s Easter Party” dawned. I rushed to the train station to catch the 11:34. In no time I arrived, met by Keiko-san. Children were already gathered; some still in the arms of mothers. Others pre-teen. The average student was about eight years old.

The party was on! Using a variety of supplies Keiko-san had put together, the children created some very unique eggs. Some drew faces. Others made designs or scenes from nature. All were well thought out and very well done. Because of the wide age range, it was impossible to choose a winner so I gave everyone a prize, purchased at Japan’s dollar store, of course!  In Japan it’s more important that everyone in a group is equal rather than singling out one or two. It makes everyone feel good that the group is enjoying the same benefits together. This concept carries on and is what makes Japanese society work so well.

The coloring project was fun and the children loved the soft bunny tail. At first they were a bit tentative about the conga line and singing but with Keiko’s urging and my rhythm they had a ball.

My surprise game was the “pass the egg on a spoon” relay. Once we did a demonstration, these once quiet kids wound themselves up. The decibel level was raised and the race was on. Competition does have its place in Japan after all, I thought. Few children dropped the egg. Some took longer than others but they simply loved this game, and kept on pleading for one more relay until we were all exhausted. Japanese sweets and “cha” (tea) were always served.

The party was a rousing success. Word spread quickly through the teacher’s network and every party I did was met with excitement and appreciation. You might be wondering if the real meaning of Easter was part of my teaching. The answer is yes. With the help of another teacher, we found a print -out that told the Easter story, in comic-book format, with each scene tastefully and realistically depicted in a separate box, six boxes to a page. In a country dominated by Shinto and Buddhism, Christians are few and far between. The children were attentive as I did a show and tell story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. They were attentive; no one said a word. No questions were asked. The teachers always complimented me on telling my “Easter story” and I was never asked to omit this part of the lesson.

I continued to do Easter parties for three years, stopping only because I’d secured a position at a private girl’s school and could not fit it into my schedule anymore. I look back on those parties and just have to smile. Little did I know that my first years in Japan would allow me to be have so much fun and be paid handsomely for doing so!

2 comments

  1. Dru Pearson

    What a fascinating read! I just finished a book about China, and, while I realize Japan and China are very different cultures, there are many similarities in their education systems. Since much of their learning is rote –and boring–the way you spiced up the curriculum undoubtedly made a lating impression on these children. I’ll bet they’re still talking about you!

  2. rebecca

    Thanks, Dru! It’s true; so much of Japanese culture is borrowed and “Japanized” to make their own. I still keep in touch with the teachers and have a reunion with them every time I return for a visit.

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