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16 September 2020
Horsham students are enjoying a taste of Japanese culture throughout a global pandemic.
St Brigid’s College invited Horsham residents Yoko Cross and Akina Koh to teach students a technical writing style of the Japanese language.
Students were able to have a short reprieve from online and remote learning to attend the school in small cohorts for practical ‘socially distanced’ lessons.
The teachers have been showing students how to write ‘Shuji’, translated as ‘penmanship’.
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It is a neat handwriting style often taught at primary schools, with balanced, equally sized characters composed of even strokes.
Ms Cross said the traditional calligraphy style, involving black ink and a paint brush, was a common art form in Japan.
“It involves a lot of technique in using the paint brush,” she said.
“It is a hard art, once you start writing you realise you need to have a lot of control over the paint brush. But the students are doing well.”
Senior languages teacher Jeni Allen saw an opportunity to apply for a $5000 Catholic Education of Ballarat Languages grant that enabled the school to teach the program.
Ms Allen said as a non-native Japanese speaker, she could see a greater opportunity in inviting the two Japanese women to share their knowledge.
“They are highly experienced in Japanese calligraphy. They’ll be teaching in the next two weeks, or as often as I can get them,” she said.
“I think it will be something really special. The students will gain something from someone other than me, because I don’t have the expertise in calligraphy writing like these women do.”
The college, in its seventh year of teaching Japanese, has largely embedded the language and its culture as part of its curriculum.
The curriculum would usually involve a small group of students travelling to Japan to gain first-hand experience of the culture.
The school would also welcome Japanese students on a short-term exchange program.
“We would normally have four students planning to be in Japan at the end of this year for a three-week period, but all of that got knocked on the head with coronavirus,” Ms Allen said.
“With Yoko and Akina, our kids are learning a truly authentic version of what I have been teaching them.
“No one else can teach them how to hold a brush correctly, how to dip into the ink correctly.
“To actually have a Japanese person holding their hand and making them produce strokes accurately, that’s something they’d only get if they went to Japan.”
– Dylan De Jong
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