Boys Day teaches key life lessons
A group of 25 boys had their eyes transfixed to the television, some intrigued, and others curious, as the scenes from a documentary beamed a day in the life of primary schoolchildren in Japan.
It was a morning out from school for these students of Davis Primary School, Old Harbour, St Catherine, as they celebrated Boys' Day at the residence of the ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, enjoying a morning to learn about a cultural nuance from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Celebrated on May 5, the day was originally called "Tango no Sekku," (loosely translated as fifth day of the fifth month), to celebrate boys. Over the years, the day has evolved into Children's Day, and a day to recognise parents.
"The celebration includes both male and female children and we wish for their healthy growth and happiness," said Masanori Nakano, ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, as he and his wife, Keiko, joined the students for this commemoration.
The documentary highlighted how, for the Japanese, schools are an extension of their homes and communities beyond being brick and mortar structures a space where the parents take turns to serve lunch, clean, and participate in school activities.
"What is common between students in Japan and you?" asked Megan Barrett from the Cultural Section, Embassy of Japan.
There were many pensive faces, some murmuring, and then a few hands went up.
"They go to vacations like us. they go to the beach and watch athletics," said a student.
"We learnt a lot," said Geovani Hall, a Grade 6 student. "They (Japanese students) respect the environment and work as a team."
The accompanying teachers were equally impressed.
"I am most humbled and inspired to see that schoolchildren in Japan clean their classrooms," said Marcia Richards-Mitchell. "I will definitely use this example to speak with the students and their parents and encourage them to participate in keeping the school and its environs clean."
Boys' Day celebrations, like all Eastern traditions, have symbolic manifestations to reaffirm positive messages for the boys prayers and wishes for their well-being; a longlife reaffirmation of strength, wisdom and righteousness.
The students got a chance to make Samurai helmets out of old editions of The Gleaner - the art of repurposing at its best. After meticulous twists and folds, 'viol·!', they were little Samurai.
Dotted in the space were symbols to reaffirm those traits of humility in strength, modesty, and simplicity.
May Dolls, comprising amurai gear, were displayed on a pedestal.
"It is a traditional to display a Kintaro doll, usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto," said Reika Inoue, cultural officer at the Embassy of Japan in Jamaica. "These are traditional symbols of strength and vitality."
Inoue explained that Kintaro was the childhood name of Sakata no Kintoki, a hero in the Heian period (a period of classical Japanese history from AD794-D1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-Kyo, modern-day Kyoto). "Kintaro was known for his strength when he was a child, and it is said that he rode a bear, instead of a horse, and played with animals in the mountains."
Old buds of Kashiwa Mochi (oak tree) are served as a symbol of the continuity of the family lineage. "It is important," Inoue said, "that the leaves chosen should have fallen off the tree and not plucked."
Other traditional fare is the Chimaki (a dumpling that finds its origins in China), which is said to keep away evil spirits.
Also displayed were "shobu" (Japanese iris), representing martial spirit, its sharp leaves symbolise a sword, which, critically, doesn't mean to glorify the prowess of the blade, but symbolises sharpness of mind, action, mental strength, and discipline.
The boys found these traits fascinating, to learn first-hand about an ancient culture that is deep rooted and relevant in the 21st century.
Outside, a flag post was raised, with carp-shaped flags fluttering in the crisp sunshine as they imparted a key life lesson.
"Legends goes that the carp fish swims upstream and becomes a dragon warrior," said Ambassador Nakano. "This symbolises the overcoming of hardships, whatever the circumstances might be, and for success in life."