SMILE English

SMILE Vol. 17 October 20, 2018 (H30)

Fall is in full swing. It’s a Halloween season!

Halloween on October 31 has been showing excitement in Japan for the past few years. In Japan, “Halloween” may be reminded of Halloween costume and parade rather than the origin of Halloween. Halloween is an event that celebrates the harvest of autumn and kicks out evil spirits. When the spirit of the deceased visited the family members, they wore masks and dressed up to protect themselves from spirits and witches coming at the same time. From these practice, children nowadays are dressed up and started trick or treat.
In Japan, there is a similar event during the Bon, such as a “grave festival”, in which all residents in a region prepare the Bon festival, and families welcome the spirits of the ancestors and visit the grave.
It is also similar to the Setsubun, where we decorate holly leaves and sardines at the entrance of home to drive away the demons, and the Full Moon Night, where we celebrate the harvest and children walk with sweets. In Mexico, where I had worked before, there is a custom that they decorate the grave with a huge decoration, greet the deceased family members and friends, and have bright and fun time with the dead. Although religious meaning and historical background of the events in the fall season are different among countries, it seems to be common that they talk about memorable memories of their ancestors and appreciate the harvest in fall.
At Halloween, children in our neighborhood seem to come seeking treats. How do we prepare and welcome children? I’m very excited to have Halloween.

SMILE Vol. 16 October 13, 2018 (H30)

“Fall is the season for art & culture” Let our children shine!

When I take a walk around my neighborhood, I spot red and yellow colors among the green leaves. The height of autumn is approaching. Pumpkins and Halloween ornaments at the entrance of houses are also adding beautiful colors to this season. At JLSP, from now through November, various events will be held by each schools/divisions and courses. Students will show off their study progress at those occasions.
Schedule of the events:
Kindergarten: 11/17/18 (Sat): “Birthday Celebration/Fall Music Concert”
Elementary School: 11/10/18 (Sat): “Fall Study Festival”
Middle School: 10/20/18 (Sat): “Fall Cultural Festival”
High School: 11/17/18 (Sat): “Ko-shien Debating Contest”
Keisho Course: 11/3/18 (Sat): “Autumn Culture Festival”
In the past, all schools/divisions and courses had gathered together and participated in one annual school play around this time of the year. However, last year, we started to have separate events by each schools/divisions and courses. It will be a good occasion for each of them to introduce Japanese culture and experience, or to present their studies that they have been working on. Moreover, this will be a great opportunity for students to improve how to express themselves, as well as for students to respect and learn from each other. You are welcome to observe any event. Please support your children in their preparation, and cheer for them. Details for the events are yet to be announced. Please pay attention to the correspondence from your children’s homeroom teachers.

SMILE Vol. 15 October 6, 2018 (H30)

“Wondering why” and keeping your curiosity are important!

This year’s Nobel Prize winners for Physiology/Medicine were announced on October 1st. The recipients were Dr. Tasuku Honjo from Kyoto University, Japan and Dr. James Allison from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas. The two of them independently discovered proteins that act as brakes of the immune system and found that pharmacologically blocking these molecules allows the immune system to fight cancer. The drug “Optivo”, which uses this mechanism, was first approved in Japan in 2014 and is now approved in over 60 countries to treat cancer.
In his interview, Dr. Honjo states that his motto in research is “Curiosity drives what I want to know”. In an interview performed 30 years ago, he stated that “by figuring out how biology works, I want to find ways to cure cancer and other incurable diseases”. Now, he has accomplished this dream by curing cancer using the immune system. He tells students aspirating to become scientists, “Observe with your own eyes. Think with your own brain. Don’t quit until you’re satisfied and never give up.”
Dr. Honjo’s words reinforce the importance of maintaining an inquisitive mind, keeping a positive attitude, and accomplishing tasks until satisfied. Regardless of age, I felt even more compelled to maintain my curiosity and inquiry, and listen to the insatiable curiosity of the students.

SMILE Vol. 14 September 30, 2018 (H30)

“Chushu no meigetsu” –let’s look up at the night sky!

“Chushu no meigetsu” (Harvest Moon) fell on September 24th this year. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy in Philadelphia to view it. “Chushu” refers to August 15th, which was the middle of the fall in the Chinese calendar, and we call the moon seen on that day “chushu no meigetsu.” People used to offer grains that were harvested during this time to show thankfulness and celebrate “otsukimi” by viewing the beautiful moon. This has been a tradition that has been passed down from China during the Heian period.
In my hometown Kumamoto, we would decorate our porch with the silver grasses, make rice dumplings and offer them as well as potatoes, fruits, and snacks under the moon. As kids, we would go around the houses in the neighborhood and ask for these offerings and put them in our bags. By the time we got home, all the food in the bags were squished and mixed up, but I remember eating them with thankfulness. In a strange coincidence, there were news this week about MINERVA-II developed by JAXA has successfully landed on the asteroid “Ryugu” and a Japanese CEO planning the first private space travel to the moon. The dream to the universe is only expanding, and the space development is progressing steadily. While we are busy with our daily lives, perhaps it would be nice to look up at the fall night sky and enjoy the beautiful moon and stars as we think of the universe.

SMILE Vol. 13 September 22, 2018 (H30)

Bazaar – New Cafeteria was filled with smiles

September 15th was the first annual bazar JLSP children had been looking forward to.
There were concerns about effects from a huge hurricane FLORENCE on that day but fortunately, the weather was nice and the bazaar was held as scheduled. There were many items for sale inside and outside of the freshly renovated cafeteria, such as homemade dishes by parents, fresh produce, goods from a bakery, books and games. Smiles of children – who was thinking what to get or was enjoying delicious foods left a special impression.
Profits from the Bazaar was $5,741.25 and this entire amount has been donated to JLSP. We are truly thankful from the bottom of our heart. A huge thank you to parents who did planning, negotiation, shopping, venue setting, operation, donated their books and planned fun games. Also, thank you to supporting companies who came all the way to join us. We are very grateful.
Children’s happy face and parents’ fond look reminded me of the fact that JLSP is supported by all those people. We all teachers will make every effort to meet everyone’s expectations in return. Thank you very much.

SMILE Vol. 12 September 15, 2018 (H30)

Look back on the first half of the year and connect it to the second half!

The temperature is starting to drop after each rain fall. The sound of insects are pleasant to the ears and it is much cooler in the evening.
At JLSP, the feeling of summer vacation is long gone and it is nice to see that the children are studying calmly and participating in the class.
Did you enjoy the children’s summer projects displayed at the multi-purpose room two weeks ago? It was filled with impressive art works, researches and writings. I could feel that they had a fulfilling summer break. I appreciate the warm support of the parents.
Looking at the school year from April to March, September is the middle of the year. At JLSP, Kindergarten, Elementary / Middle school, Japanese heritage language course divides 1 year into 2 phases, from April to September as the first term, from October to March as the latter term. In Japan, the number of schools have also shifted from the conventional 3 semester system to the 2 semester system in recent years. (Some schools have returned to the original 3 semester system.) The high school and adult courses are based on a three semester system.
Kindergarten, Elementary / Middle school, Japanese heritage language course students receive their grades at the end of the first phase. September is an important month to look back on the first half of the school year.
In Japan, Typhoon 21 caused many damages and Hokkaido had suffered from a major Earthquake. I would like to pray for the ones affected by the disasters and early recovery and restoration.

SMILE Vol. 11 September 8, 2018 (H30)

What kind of Autumn will you have? Let’s enjoy the Autumn!

This past Monday was Labor Day. This is an American holiday on the 1 st Monday in September. It is a day to appreciate workers, and also considered as the end of summer. The new school year starts in September in United States, so people spend this holiday preparing for school, having a party with family and friends, or going out to the end of summer travel, etc. How about you? American football season starts around Labor Day. As Japanese say, “Fall is the best time for sports,” right? In Japanese, there are may sayings like “Fall is the best time for something” such as for sports, reading, harvest, appetite, art, and so on. Moon-watching and foliage-viewing are also seasonal events in Fall. I read a book after a long time. Not on a computer or smart phone, but a book with paper. The novel written by a popular writer in these days reminded me of the joy of reading with interesting expression or words, and thrill of getting into the unknown world. Autumn is a good season for physical activities and harvesting time of great food. How will you be spending this Autumn? Before a cold winter comes, I like to enjoy this season and make it “fruitful Autumn.”

SMILE Vol. 10 September 1, 2018 (H30)

Sep 1 st is “Disaster Prevention Day”, “Prevention is better than the cure”

Sep 1 st is “Disaster Prevention Day” in Japan. This was established in 1960 after experiencing Great Kanto Earthquake on Sep 1 st , 1923. Since then, there is disaster prevention training all over Japan during Disaster Prevention Week from Aug 30 to Sep 5. We’ve had so much damage from natural disasters like great earthquakes, heavy rains, and flooding from high tides for several years in Japan. Since we have no idea when and where a disaster may happen in the world, why don’t you and your family discuss again about how to prevent, communicate, and be prepared with items you may need in an emergency.
I had an experience of the Kumamoto Earthquake in April, 2016. During this event, all the lifelines like water, gas, and electricity were down, and what we needed most was WATER. I still remember how valuable it is and appreciate the water supplied by government and self-defense forces. Just as other
households in the US, I start keeping stocks of bottles of water. Japanese school plans to have disaster prevention training on the calendar and execute it every year. This is very important training to evacuate quickly and smoothly. Please everyone: work on it seriously and calmly to save your own life!
Let’s not just talk about the term, “Prevention is better than the cure”, let’s make it happen!

SMILE Vol. 9 August 18, 2018 (H30)

High School Baseball Tournament is one of the biggest summer event in Japan!! Touched by single-minded players

A long summer vacation has come to an end, and well-rested students have returned to school with full of energy. They have grown by gaining experience over summer, and now they are back to school and started a new semester. It reminded me who the leading players are at school by seeing them learning with reunited classmates after long summer break.
Who are the leading players during summer in Japan? Many will perhaps say, ‘High School Baseball players’. High School baseball tournament celebrated its 100th year this summer and attracted more viewers. A legend and a recipient of National Honor Award, Hideki Matsui, who played as a member of Seiryou High School in Ishikawa, threw the opening pitch to kick off the tournament. I was glued to TV to watch all his best plays in the past. The winner was Osaka Shouin High School, the first time ever back to back victory (Spring and Summer Tournament). Although they lost the game, a runner-up, Akita Kaneashi Nogyou High School, played very well, and the image of them singing the school song so proudly has stuck to my memory to this date. It always moves people’s heart when you see someone doing the best she/he can.
When the high school baseball tournament is over, it means fall is around the corner. It’s getting cool and nice in the morning. Let’s enjoy the season of harvest, sports, reading and food – Fall.

SMILE Vol. 8 August 18, 2018 (H30)

Sixty-Two Days of Summer Vacation Has Ended. Let’s Get a Fresh Start!

“Each student will grow and be more matured when you return to school in two months!” This is what I wrote in the last edition of “Smile (Vol. 7)” issued on June 16. During the summer, a number of life threatening disasters were reported almost everyday, including the torrential rain and landslides in western Japan, severe damages caused by one typhoon after another, extreme heat wave and record-breaking high temperatures in Japan, etc. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to those who were affected by these frightening events.
Even here in the Philadelphia area, our smartphones were continuously delivering flood warnings and emergency alerts these past few weeks. I hope all students and their families remained safe.
The long summer vacation is over, and laughters and giggle have returned to Friends’ Central. Did you have a productive summer? Were you able to achieve the goals you established prior to the summer? Did you have a healthy summer? And did you complete all homework? I bet everyone is fine.
The second semester is being started. I hope you are willing to continue to challenge yourself to accomplish your new goals. I look forward to seeing you grow further!