Since its inception in 2001, every Fall Semester, the Japan America Society of Southern California organizes and coordinates its Hitachi Japanese Kite Workshops for underserved schoolchildren in the greater Los Angeles region. These workshops are made possible by the generous grants from Hitachi, Ltd.
The Workshops are conducted by Japanese Kite Master Mikio Toki, and when available, one or more additional Japanese kite masters. These are “hands-on,” in-classroom experiences that introduce Japan and Japanese culture through the building of a small, traditional Japanese kite made of bamboo and washi (Japanese paper).
In 2012, over 1,100 students participated in the workshops from 13 different schools. To date, over 8,000 underserved students have benefited from this program! In addition to constructing their first kite, the schoolchildren receive and experience:
- Bamboo and washi paper Japanese kite kit
- Society volunteers assisting the Japanese Kite Master (promoting a positive image of Americans and Japanese working together)
- Japanese Kite Master(s) wearing traditional Japanese kite-flying kimono
- Introduction to the history of kites in Japan
- Display of two dozen, hand-made Japanese kites
- Discussion of the materials and techniques used to build Japanese kites
- Techniques to decorate the kite in a Japanese style
- How to write one’s name in Japanese katakana characters
- Mini-Kite Festival on the schoolyard where the schoolchildren will fly their first kite alongside the Japanese Kite Master
Through the Hitachi Japanese Kite Workshops, schoolchildren with the greatest need are provided a positive introduction to Japanese culture. The Workshops also help develop each child’s creativity, as well as promote an “I can do it!” attitude after they successfully build and fly their first kite. Furthermore, the Workshops have a profound and lasting influence; teachers report that during end-of-school-year reviews, a majority of students cite the Hitachi Japanese Kite Workshop as their favorite educational experience of the year!