The Early Learning Center has a long history of embracing Japanese holidays and culture as a platform for activities that introduce children to Japanese arts and crafts, music, food, traditional clothing, children’s literature, games and toys. Although this rich study extends through the entire year, many of the cultural activities take place between January and March. The ELC previously welcomed the new year in traditional Japanese style with a day of mochitsuki in January.
On February 11, the ELC continued their cultural traditions with the sound of drums as students and teachers welcomed the Tamakkoza Taiko group. Tamakkoza formed in 1985 and have brought their unique taiko performance to the ELC every year for the past 15 years—a relationship that precedes the Roppongi campus. The performance interwove traditional taiko drums with instruments that mimic insects and animals, pantomime, original comedy and a story. In the end, parents and students themselves joined in on the act—drumming and dancing in unison. After the performance, all students had an opportunity to test the taiko. Some flailed wildly, marching to the beat of their own drum, while others took a more steady, considered approach.
The week following taiko, on February 15, everyone at the ELC welcomed Kaonishiki (華王錦) and Mitozakura (美登桜), two sumo wrestlers from Azumazeki-beya (東関部屋), a sumo training stable here in Tokyo. The students had trained tirelessly during recess to take on these two super-sized sumo pros. After learning the pre-match rituals and rules-of-the-ring, our ELC student sumo went one-on-one (and sometimes ten-on-one) with the visiting professionals. Their relentless training paid off, as our wee wrestlers won every single match. Students and faculty alike are always excited for the annual sumo event at the ELC. Kaonishiki and Mitozakura left noting how well-prepared our students were.
Cultural activities at the ELC will soon continue with kamishibai (paper drama), a type of storytelling that uses large images to convey lessons.