The 7th of July in Japan is known as Tanabata (七夕) which celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi. According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month albeit only for a brief moment.
Following on from our Halloween parties and the special Kung Fu Panda lesson over the last few years Lai-Keun and I did a couple of kids Tanabata lessons in Hibarigaoka today. A huge part of the festival is the writing of wishes on coloured strips of paper on the night of the 6th which are then tied to a bamboo plant and put outside in the garden on the 7th. Some kids have been writing their wishes and putting them on a bamboo tree in the school in the last couple of weeks but other than that we didn’t incorporate it into our lesson too much. There was though an activity where one group cut up some pictures and then tied them to a couple of bamboo branches.
The day was split into 2 x 90 minute lessons (including a ten minute break for drink and rice crackers) with the first one being a mix of Playgroup and Kindergarten students with some very familiar faces for me as all my Playgroup kids were in attendance. After a warmer song we got on with a variety of colours, shapes (diamond, star, square, circle, triangle, heart) and numbers based stuff which I can only vaguely remember! The craft activity was just for the young ‘un’s to colour in Orihime and Hikoboshi and add a load of star stickers to the sky. Simple but very enjoyable!
The day wasn’t just about learning some new vocabulary but also about having fun in an English-speaking environment and some of the games included:
* throwing stars into boxes
* blindfolded ‘stick the boy next to the girl’
* hit the ‘star’ piñata
An hours rest/preparation and then it was on to the next group of lower and higher elementary kids beginning with some simple ball drills of numbers and months. Its a bit of a vague connection but Tanabata is in July and July is a month! Oh well, after rattling through some months-based activities (hide & reveal, missing month, race & circle, race & erase) we moved on to adjectives of emotion (happy, sad, angry) and other such lexical items like moon, river and bridge which are all integral parts of the tanabata story. Some amusing attempts at blindfold ‘stick the boy next to the girl’ ensued and the craft activity was the aforementioned bamboo plant tying activity.
The second part of the lesson included some far more ‘meatier’ activities such as making a star chain using mittens, throwing stars into a box, using chopsticks to transfer stars from cup to cup and the inevitable ‘hit the piñata’ conclusion.
All-in-all it was a successful day with a controllable amount of tears and tantrums. Despite being my seventh consecutive day at work (part of an eleven day marathon) the chance to do something a little different and new with the kids was quite a nice, refreshing change and one from which I actually learned a lot more about this festival.