A rich cross-cultural experience
A proverb goes, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," an ode to the person who raises a child, which determines the character of that child and influences the type of society that the next generation will create.
It was a morning filled with excitement when the classroom of these Grade 6 students moved from their school, Rollington Town Primary, to the residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, Masanori Nakano. For all of them, this bus ride was nothing less than travelling across time zones to the Land of the Rising Sun.
They gathered to celebrate Hinamatsuri, the Doll Festival, which celebrates girls, and people wish for their good health and future happiness.
These sixth-graders were treated to the history and traditions that honour time-tested traditions, a peek into a foreign culture, in the third dimension, beyond the pages of their textbooks.
"Learning about Japan is a part of the Grade 6 curriculum," said Nicole Fray-Johnson, Grade 6 coordinator at Rollington Town Primary. "The students got to know a lot about the Japanese culture and this festival, which was new to them."
The ambassador's wife, Keiko Nakano, dressed in a kimono, played the host, assisted by Reika Inoue, cultural officer at Embassy of Japan. the students the participated in an interactive session.
"The festival was new for them," Fray-Johnson said. "They were intrigued and in awe seeing the artistic display of dolls, the meticulousness and precision."
The dolls are not only pretty faces and grand attires, they have a deep-rooted spiritual manifestation behind them as they are supposed to attract and trap bad spirits.
The festival, which finds its genesis in ancient Japan, is also the celebration of the transition of winter and the advent of spring when the sun shines through, the snow melts, and flowers blossom the birth of life.
Students got a chance to wear kimono. they were treated to rice cakes, watched a film on Japan, wrote their names in Japanese, and tried their hand at origami.
"They are still elated," Fray-Johnson said. The experience has given them a new perspective. They greet in Japanese now."
The Grade 6 coordinator said that cross-cultural interactions like these are very effective and leave a lasting impression.
According to her, the students not only learnt what the festival meant, but it was an important lesson on how other cultures celebrate and respect girls, something they could imbibe in their own day to day life.
The kimonos were a hit. the boys, who were feeling left out, as the day was all about girls, got a chance to wear traditional Japanese attire.
"In the normal course, it is difficult for these students to experience a different culture first hand, and this filled that gap," Fray-Johnson said.
They got to ask questions and learn about the lifestyle of children of their age group a day in the life of a child in Japan.
"The regular responsibilities of the students there were an eye opener," Fray-Johnson said. "There awe and intrigue when they saw schoolchildren in Japan cleaning their classrooms, serving food, washing dishes, and taking care of the school."
This was also an opportunity for introspection for them.
"I enjoyed every moment," said Summer Sanderson, dressed in a pink floral design kimono. "I also learnt about this festival, and it is so nice to celebrate girls I feel proud."
"It was a nice experience to host these children," said Mrs Nakano. "Hinamatsuri, though is a Japanese festival, but through it, we would like to recognise and honour all the girls across the world.
"They are precious," she said.
As an educator, Fray-Johnson said she would love to have more such interactions wherein the children could get to experience other cultures and appreciate them. In doing this, they would also understand the Jamaican motto Out of Many, One People.