Cross-Cultural Exchange

Nao Murakami, a student from Takata High School in Japan, teaches Japanese calligraphy to freshman Brook Nolan at Del Norte High School on Tuesday. Nao was one of 14 Takata High School students visiting Del Norte County this week. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson

Japanese youth teach calligraphy, the traditional way, to Del Norte High students 

Brook Nolan and Taylor Melton watched Nao Murakami’s graceful brushstrokes as she demonstrated Japanese Kanji, or calligraphy.

Nao, one of 14 students from Takata High School in Japan visiting Del Norte High School, visualized the character for “flower,” tracing it out with her brush suspended above the paper, before executing it in a few swift strokes. She then gestured for Brook to do the same, showing her which lines to make first.

“It was hard,” said Brook, a Del Norte High School freshman, adding that it would be fun to learn a new language. 

Taylor, who is also a freshman, learned to draw the character for ambition.

“She told me what lines to do first,” she said. “But it’s hard.” 

Nearly a year ago, a group of Del Norte High students experienced a day in the life of a Takata High School student. Now it was the Takata High students’ turn to experience Del Norte. In addition to teaching students in Jeff Hanck’s art class how to make Japanese numbers and characters, the students also attended shop classes and the Yurok language class.

The Takata High School students will also attend an agriculture class and a metals class on Friday before visiting the County Office of Education’s student-built carpentry house.

On Tuesday, Nao, her classmates and their teacher Ruriko Kano began the art class by showing the students the traditional tools they used, which included a special kind of paper, brush and an inkstick and inkstone to make the ink.

“This is the traditional way,” Kano said. “But we don’t use this way any more. Modern people are too busy.”

Hanck said the demonstration was a good introduction for his students, who will be learning traditional ink wash painting and brush painting later in the school year.

“This is a good experience for us to learn by watching and doing instead of listening,” he said.

Japanese children start learning calligraphy in elementary school when they’re between 6 and 12 years old, Kano said. They must master three different alphabet systems, including Kanji, she said. When they are older students can choose to learn more advanced calligraphy along with other forms of art. 

Kano said one girl who is visiting Del Norte High School and was in a different art class demonstrating calligraphy is so advanced she can ply her art on a “very big” piece of paper with a huge brush.

As she watched her students work with the Del Norte High School students, Kano said they were demonstrating the traditional form of calligraphy.

“The samurai used it this way a long time ago,” she said. “A hundred years ago people wrote only with brush and rock ink, but after we opened the country we tried Western ways. When we take a memo we use ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil.”

This wasn’t Kano’s first time visiting the United States. She said she had studied in the U.S. when she was in college and traveled from New York through the South and Southwest to San Francisco before flying back to Japan.

Kano said she didn’t anticipate the welcome that her students received from Del Norte County and that they were impressed by the school assembly.

“We didn’t think most of the students knew about what you did,” she said, referring to the group of high school students that cleaned up and returned the fishing vessel that was swept into the ocean during the 2011 tsunami. “We were very surprised.”

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Cross-Cultural Exchange
Japanese Class – Yahoo News Search Results
Japanese Class – Yahoo News Search Results

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