For the last few years, COVID only allowed us to offer virtual kite workshops. However, this year, we were able to invite Kite Master Mikio Toki from Japan and resume in-person activities. Mr. Toki taught Japanese kite making to over 1,000 students completing 16 workshops at 13 different schools during his 10 day stay from mid to late October 2023.
There was laughter, excitement, and big smiles on the students' faces. We received a warm welcome and great engagement from the faculty and volunteer parents that joined the workshops. The students not only enjoyed creating their own special kite, but could not wait to go outside to fly them. One student said, "Thank you for the tako (kite) making class. I had a great time. It was my first time flying a kite!"
Another student shared his dream. "I want to become a pilot when I grow up and seeing my kite fly so high, I know I can fly high and become a pilot." Growing up in tough and historically overlooked neighborhoods of Los Angeles, there are many challenges these students face. In fact, at almost all the schools we visited, we saw students being served a school breakfast or lunch, which typically are the only meals they have for the day. These kite workshops create magical moments for these students, allowing them to boost their imagination and confidence. By sharing the Japanese culture through Japanese kite making, we are opening up their world to new perspectives and thoughts, providing some space for them to hope and dream a little more. It is heartwarming instances like these that truly inspire us to continue offering these workshops.
We would like to thank the teachers and staff at the schools we visited for all their help. We would also like to acknowledge and thank this year's supporters for making the workshops happen - Kite Master Mikio Toki, Tobe and Greg Karns (Cox Castle), Kathy and Ryan Bates (Mitsui USA), Leah and Chris Thornberg, Torrance City Councilmember Jon Kaji, Randy Joe (X-Kites), Doug Erber (past JASSC President), Frank Eguchi (Panasonic Automotive Systems and JASSC Chair), Chiho Kelly (EY and JASSC Treasurer), Vivien Usui (past JASSC Treasurer), Sharanelle Clark (Hitachi) and Lori Gage (Hitachi).
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).
Mr. Toki is one of a few Edo-style kite masters left in this world.
To date, more than 17,600 under-served students have benefited from this program!
In addition to constructing their first kite, the schoolchildren receive and experience:
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!You can help increase the number of students served!