Thursday, January 20, 2011

Journey to Japan

Today for after-school storytime we went on a journey to Japan and learned how the Japanese celebrate their biggest holiday of the year---New Year's Day.

This year is the Year of the Rabbit. How did the years get their animal names? There is a story that explains how there was a race between the animals that decided the order of the animal zodiac cycle.

It's a Chinese story known throughout Asia. Rather than a book, my version is on story cards known as kamishibai. This was actually the first time that I have used kamishibai. I don't have a wooden theater to slide the cards into, I just hold them on my lap. Each card has part of the story on the back, so that the storyteller can read the story while the children look at the card. It worked very well.

We talked about New Year's customs in Japan, including this fellow---he's a daruma. A daruma is the image of a famous old monk, the founderof Zen Buddhism. He sat so long in meditation that he lost the use of his legs, and developed such great wisdom and virtue that he became a buddha, and can answer prayers. A daruma doll comes with his eyes blank. It is customary to buy a daruma at the beginning of the year, make a wish or set a goal, and paint in one eye. Then when the goal is accomplished, or the wish granted, the other eye is painted in.

Finally, as an activity, we did some origami. We folded paper balloons, a traditional origami model. It was kind of hard for most of the kids, since they were mostly under 6, but with some help from the moms they all ended up with a balloon to blow up and take home.

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