CLC hosts daylong taste of Japanese culture

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May 1, 2014 6:02PM

A student Japanese language Kory Kerby watches as presenter Hitomi Hirunumpractices art Japanese calligraphy Wednesday during college's Japan Day Celebratievent. | YadirSanchez

A student of the Japanese language, Kory Kerby watches as presenter Hitomi Hirunuma practices the art of Japanese calligraphy Wednesday during the college’s Japan Day Celebration event. | Yadira Sanchez Olson/Sun-Times Media

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Sit up straight. Focus. Know that once you start a character, you have to finish it and there are no touch-ups or alterations. Those were some of the rules to the art of Japanese calligraphy that were taught at the College of Lake County in Grayslake Wednesday during a Japanese Day Celebration.

During the daylong event, different masters of a Japanese craft took the stage to display the history and the art behind some of Japan’s most famous traditions, such as Japanese fencing, floral arranging, tea ceremonies and calligraphy.

Each demonstration was unique and each one captivated the audience.

“It made me want to go to Japan,” said Kris Gustafson of Libertyville.

After seeing the Japanese tea ceremony or Chanoyu, Gustafson said she noticed the difference between the American culture’s way of rushing through everything, while the Japanese promote slowing down to truly be in the moment. “Everything seems so spiritual [in Japanese culture],” Gustafson said.

One moment, one opportunity — Ichigo ichie — That’s the basis for how intricate and precise the tea ceremony is in Japan.

For five centuries, the Japanese have practiced this art, which is by no means just about drinking tea. From the setting of the room by adding fresh flowers representative of the season, to the steps taken to show respect by the guest to the host and the host to the guests, with bows and silence, the elements to having tea in Japan are there to provide the most exquisite of experiences for those who partake in it. They promote harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. It is a quiet art; one that is of great importance to the Japanese people.

“There’s more to Japan than just anime,” said Sara Li, a CLC Japanese language student who lives in Round Lake Heights and helped the presenters of the tea ceremony with some of the narration. Li said she hopes those who attended got a deeper sense of the Japanese culture and she’s looking forward to a day when she can visit the country and learn more about it firshand.

Others who saw the demonstrations said they will be taking trips to Japan this summer and want to learn more about the customs before they do.

Partnering with the Japan Information Center of the Consulate General at Chicago, the college hosted the Japan Day Celebration to promote its courses of the Japanese language and culture.

Aside from classes, there are opportunities to join student exchange programs, study abroad programs and Japanese speech contests, said CLC Japanese professor Fusayo Erric.

“The college has experienced dips in the enrollment of Japanese classes,” Erric said. “Japan Day Celebration is expected to trigger a desire to understand and experience more of the Japanese culture.”

Although too young to attend those college courses, 10-year-old Elena Hevrdejs of Lake Villa was at some of the demonstrations with her mother Jill Hevrdejs and 14-year-old sister Anna Hevrdejs. Anna will be traveling to Japan in June, but it was Elena who took a personal calligraphy lesson by presenter Hitomi Hirunuma. With a few calculated strokes, Elena traced her name in deep black ink and, as the custom in Japan goes, when she was done, she bowed to her teacher and the two said “arigato.”

Japanese classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced students are offered at the college. The Japan Day Celebration was sponsored by the Communication Arts, Humanities and Fine Arts Division of CLC.

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CLC hosts daylong taste of Japanese culture
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