Life lessons learned from Japanese Art and culture

Discovery Academy Art Therapy – Students learn life lessons through Japanese Art with Dr. Ann Ngatai.

Students were taught about Bonsai trees and had the opportunity to visit a local nursery to choose their own tree. Students learned that Bonsai trees reflect natural situations:
• Literary and wind swept styles reflect a tree’s endurance to overcome nature’s persistent elements.
• Formal upright styles are characterized by a straight vertical trunk and reflect calmness and a stately stature.
• Cascade styles are inspired by trees clinging for their lives from the side of a mountain.

Students have been practicing their kanji (logographic Chinese characters which are used in the modern Japanese writing system). Kanji reflects their perceptions of themselves and their aspirations. They have painted their kanji on Japanese rice paper. Among the 25 different kanji to choose from, there is:
• Love (Ai Suru)
• Happy (shiawa-se)
• Truth (Shin, shinjitsu)
• To Overcome/Win (koku)

Students are also learning about Japanese rock gardens which often have three stones with one leaning (vertically) and two supporting. If there are “leaning” stones, there must be “supporting” stones.” We pointed out to students that when we have struggles, we all have had a need to lean on our parents or others who are our support. Rock gardens imitate essence of nature (i.e. ripples in a pond), and serves to aid in reflection and meditation about the true meaning of life.
Students have been crafting origami cranes. In Japanese tradition, 1,000 origami paper cranes were folded to honor a marriage, but after the WWII bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki , the 1,000 paper cranes took on an additional meaning of hope for peace and health. In the art therapy class, they built upon this tradition with the students to take on hope for “personal peace within themselves” and “keeping goals of personal health”.

Students have been working on Koinobori (carp streamers or windsocks). The carp was chosen as a symbol for boys because the Japanese consider it the most spirited fish — so full of energy and power that it can fight its way up swift-running streams and cascades. Because of its strength and determination to overcome all obstacles, it stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals. It is hoped that each child will grow up healthy and strong like the wild carps. Presently, the Koinobori are used for both boys and girls on Children’s Day (kodomo no hi).

All of our students’ Japanese art creations were on display during the Parent Seminar in April.