Schools that introduce traditional arts: Oedo High School (Koto-ward, Tokyo)

This fiscal year, 46 high schools and special education schools run by the metropolitan government started courses with special emphasis on practical lessons in various subjects, such as shogi, washi paper making, traditional Japanese dance and playing the three-stringed Tsugaru-jamisen. Ten schools, including Oedo High School, have started part-time courses. Oedo High School, a part-time high school in Koto Ward, Tokyo–opened in 2004 as one of five special schools designated by the Tokyo metropolitan government to accept youngsters with poor attendance records or those who quit other high schools.
By Hitomi Seki
The following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This is the second installment of two-part series focusing on teaching traditional Japanese culture.
On worktables in a spacious classroom in a Tokyo high school sit special grinders for making traditional Japanese cut glass called Edo Kiriko. Nine students, both boys and girls, stand at the tables and place 16-centimeter glass plates onto a fast-rotating grinder to cut out patterns that characterize this type of glassware.
The part-time high school–Oedo High School in Koto Ward, Tokyo–opened in 2004 as one of five special schools designated by the Tokyo metropolitan government to accept youngsters with poor attendance records or those who quit other high schools.
The school has three courses, in the morning, afternoon and evening. The school also has a department that focuses on Japanese traditions and culture, in which students can learn about culture during the Edo period (1603-1867). This department enables the school to make the most of its close proximity to “shitamachi bunka,” or the culture of low-lying areas in eastern Tokyo where artisans and merchants used to live during the Edo period and their traditions can still be found.
The school’s academic year is divided into two terms. In the first term of the elective course, “dento kogei jissen” (practicing traditional craftsmanship), they learn how to make bekko zaiku, or tortoiseshell craft, and in the second term students learn about Edo Kiriko.
Other optional subjects include “dento kogei nyumon” (beginners’ guide to traditional craft), in which students learn wood carving and making hagoita paddles with quilted fabric; traditional Japanese music, such as wadaiko drumming; pottery; tea ceremony and flower arrangement. Classes use two consecutive slots in the school day, making it easier for teachers to give students practical and coherent classes.
Teachers of traditional craft-related subjects are all professionals in their field of expertise.
Edo Kiriko craftsman Yoshiro Kobayashi, an intangible cultural asset of Koto Ward, Tokyo, started teaching at the high school four years ago and he feels he gets a good response from students in the classes he teaches.
“When the students start working on their pieces, they devote themselves for more than an hour. They are very responsive and I feel rewarded,” he said.
Some students enter the school because they want to learn traditional Japanese crafts.
“Normally, there’s no way you can learn these things from real-life craftsmen. Coming to this school was really worthwhile for me,” said an 18-year-old female student, who added that she saw a TV program featuring traditional crafts and was fascinated by the way craftsmen work and how beautiful their results are.
Since 2005, the Tokyo metropolitan government’s educational board has been encouraging schools to raise awareness of Japanese traditions and culture, including contemporary culture such as animation, because it is important for students to understand the traditions and culture of their own country when they interact with people in an international community. Under the educational board’s program, schools that teach Japanese traditions and culture receive financial support from the metropolitan government to pay specialist lecturers. The metropolitan government also has produced curriculum and educational materials for such classes to facilitate their introduction in schools.
This fiscal year, 46 high schools and special education schools run by the metropolitan government started courses with special emphasis on practical lessons in various subjects, such as shogi, washi paper making, traditional Japanese dance and playing the three-stringed Tsugaru-jamisen. Ten schools, including Oedo High School, have started part-time courses.
According to the school’s principal, Noboru Oka, classes on Japanese tradition and culture are effective in piquing students’ curiosity and encouraging them to face a challenge.
“We explain to students how those traditions and culture relate to our lives, so more students are likely to be interested in them, even those who had no interest in studying at primary or middle school,” Oka said. “In traditional craft classes, students can achieve a feeling of accomplishment by creating their own work. They start feeling more positive, too.”
Following their experience of making traditional craft pieces, some students feel that their future is in the field.
“I’m glad I can keep the work I made,” said a 17-year-old male student who is taking the Edo Kiriko class. “I really want to be a craftsman in the future.”
Thus traditions and culture light the way and students advance forward.
(Mar. 18, 2010)

EDUCATIONAL RENAISSANCE / Learning tradition crafts from experts http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/20100318TDY12001.htmHitomi Seki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
The following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This is the second installment of two-part series focusing on teaching traditional Japanese culture.
On worktables in a spacious classroom in a Tokyo high school sit special grinders for making traditional Japanese cut glass called Edo Kiriko. Nine students, both boys and girls, stand at the tables and place 16-centimeter glass plates onto a fast-rotating grinder to cut out patterns that characterize this type of glassware.
The part-time high school–Oedo High School in Koto Ward, Tokyo–opened in 2004 as one of five special schools designated by the Tokyo metropolitan government to accept youngsters with poor attendance records or those who quit other high schools.
The school has three courses, in the morning, afternoon and evening. The school also has a department that focuses on Japanese traditions and culture, in which students can learn about culture during the Edo period (1603-1867). This department enables the school to make the most of its close proximity to “shitamachi bunka,” or the culture of low-lying areas in eastern Tokyo where artisans and merchants used to live during the Edo period and their traditions can still be found.
The school’s academic year is divided into two terms. In the first term of the elective course, “dento kogei jissen” (practicing traditional craftsmanship), they learn how to make bekko zaiku, or tortoiseshell craft, and in the second term students learn about Edo Kiriko.
Other optional subjects include “dento kogei nyumon” (beginners’ guide to traditional craft), in which students learn wood carving and making hagoita paddles with quilted fabric; traditional Japanese music, such as wadaiko drumming; pottery; tea ceremony and flower arrangement. Classes use two consecutive slots in the school day, making it easier for teachers to give students practical and coherent classes.
Teachers of traditional craft-related subjects are all professionals in their field of expertise.
Edo Kiriko craftsman Yoshiro Kobayashi, an intangible cultural asset of Koto Ward, Tokyo, started teaching at the high school four years ago and he feels he gets a good response from students in the classes he teaches.
“When the students start working on their pieces, they devote themselves for more than an hour. They are very responsive and I feel rewarded,” he said.
Some students enter the school because they want to learn traditional Japanese crafts.
“Normally, there’s no way you can learn these things from real-life craftsmen. Coming to this school was really worthwhile for me,” said an 18-year-old female student, who added that she saw a TV program featuring traditional crafts and was fascinated by the way craftsmen work and how beautiful their results are.
Since 2005, the Tokyo metropolitan government’s educational board has been encouraging schools to raise awareness of Japanese traditions and culture, including contemporary culture such as animation, because it is important for students to understand the traditions and culture of their own country when they interact with people in an international community. Under the educational board’s program, schools that teach Japanese traditions and culture receive financial support from the metropolitan government to pay specialist lecturers. The metropolitan government also has produced curriculum and educational materials for such classes to facilitate their introduction in schools.
This fiscal year, 46 high schools and special education schools run by the metropolitan government started courses with special emphasis on practical lessons in various subjects, such as shogi, washi paper making, traditional Japanese dance and playing the three-stringed Tsugaru-jamisen. Ten schools, including Oedo High School, have started part-time courses.
According to the school’s principal, Noboru Oka, classes on Japanese tradition and culture are effective in piquing students’ curiosity and encouraging them to face a challenge.
“We explain to students how those traditions and culture relate to our lives, so more students are likely to be interested in them, even those who had no interest in studying at primary or middle school,” Oka said. “In traditional craft classes, students can achieve a feeling of accomplishment by creating their own work. They start feeling more positive, too.”
Following their experience of making traditional craft pieces, some students feel that their future is in the field.
“I’m glad I can keep the work I made,” said a 17-year-old male student who is taking the Edo Kiriko class. “I really want to be a craftsman in the future.”
Thus traditions and culture light the way and students advance forward.
(Mar. 18, 2010)

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