Japan is about 16 hours away, but we can make it a little closer to us through various activities.
Japanese Club hosted by BU-YPU Teaching Assistant Meiko Okamura
The Club has been in existence since 2003 when Ayuka Komo, our first teaching assistant from Yamaguchi Prefectural University came to work with us and became in charge of the Club. It is a complement, an extension and an enhancement of what we do in our classrooms. This is where this year’s TA Sakie Tanaka provides more information about Japan to the BU community. Typically there are activities such as sampling Japanese food, origami, information sessions on going to Japan, creating Japanese season’s greetings cards, folk dance sessions, bean-throwing at the demons, etc. As much as possible, through our personal connections, we also watch Japanese movies and anime, recent or old.
We firmly believe that it is extremely important to have these extra-curricular activities particularly when you study a language which is a lot more time-consuming than the familiar Indo-European languages. (About 3 times more in terms of hours as well as effort.) And the culture behind the language is, at least on the surface, quite different from the North American counter-part, which makes it all the more important to have more supplementary information to facilitate the study.
The Club also functions as a get-together place for Canadian, Japanese and other international students. In the end, we all become friends.
Conversation Club hosted by BU student Mark Reynolds
This was a student initiative started by Mark Reynolds so that the students can have more opportunities to use Japanese over and above the class time. Unlike the Japanese Club, the sole purpose of the Conversation Club is to improve one’s ability to converse in Japanese. Each time, Mark comes up with interesting topics and the participating students have ample practice: impromptu story creation, Japanese word-chain games, role playing, small group discussions on various topics, etc. Up until 2008, the Japanese students such as Michiko, Shige, and others also came and helped Mark. All these guys graduated. So this year, the torch will be passed on to the guys who came back from Japan. The teaching staff will be there as participants as well. Or else, we will integrate it into the Japanese Club.
Japanese Choir (a capella) at Saint Mark’s Chapel
Some of us (students, instructors and community members) get together at the Chapel and practice singing. We are no Carnegie Hall material. In fact, not everyone is able to read music, but it really doesn’t matter. We just want to have fun, trying to create harmony, singing in Japanese. Some of the music (music sheets, mp3 files, etc.) are here.
Japanese TV Drama Viewing
On a regular basis we watch a series of Japanese TV drama with English subtitles to practice listening comprehension and just to have fun. A picture is worth thousand words. If you want to know how a dried, opened sardine looks like at the breakfast table, watch some of the Japanese TV dramas. To understand the contemporary Japanese society, TV dramas prove to be very valuable source of information. Do you know the answers to the questions such as “Why is it that more Japanese men are considered as “grass eating” or ?? and conversely Japanese women are considered as “meat eating” or ??? There are many interesting social phenomena going on in Japan, and TV dramas are a reflection of them.
Calligraphy Work Shop and Bamboo Flute Concert
Every Spring we have Calligraphy Master Hiroko Okata to hold a calligraphy workshop. It is open to public. Usually we use our own classroom and make it open to anyone interested. This workshop is participatory. I.e., you can actually draw, well try to draw your own calligraphy, guided by Master Okata. At the end of the workshop, you are welcome to take your work of art home. Who knows? You could be struck with a big enlightenment and produce a fine piece of art. With time, it will increase its net worth well beyond your imagination.
Another friend of ours, Claude Maheu, an excellent woodwind musician as well as a great music teacher gives a bamboo flute (“shakuhachi”) concert at Saint Mark’s Chapel, which has superb acoustics. This free concert is usually scheduled on a Friday in March during the lunch time. Come listen to the evocative sound of bamboo flute and meditate for a while. The shakuhachi music has been essentially music for meditation and as such it is closely related to Zen Buddhism. In recent years, in North America, it is adopted for various sound effects for movies, TV shows and TV commercials, etc. I’m certain you must have heard the sound of shakuhachi, or should I say, following the tradition of Zen Buddhism, you must have heard the soundless sound.
Sugaring-off to a cabane à sucre
Spring in Quebec is the time for the “cabane à sucre” (sugar shack). It has become our tradition to go to a maple sugar shack every spring to socialize. I’m not sure if you know this, but Quebec is a beautiful province and there are so many things to enjoy if your eyes are open. The “cabane à sucre” is just one of them. Normally we go to two different sugar shacks: one in Brigham and the other in Dudswell.