BERKELEY – Daruma no Gakko opened June 16, as it has for the last 35 years, to teach Japanese language, music, arts, cooking and much more to children grades K‐6.
Started in 1978 by ten very special Japanese American mothers who sought to preserve an understanding of and appreciation for Japanese American history and culture in the United States, the program is still going strong. The calendar this year includes:
• Undokai, a Japanese sports day with relay races and Japanese picnic bento boxes that always ends in a joyous water-balloon fight;
• Mochitsuki presentation by Kagami Kai
• Taiko drumming instruction for the 5th Grade class
• Instruction in Japanese arts and crafts, including ikebana, tea ceremony, origami, shibori, papermaking and woodworking
• Japanese American cooking, including sushi making
• 6th Grade curriculum on the Japanese American internment
• Gakugeikai, the finale evening concert where each grade performs songs in Japanese, and including a taiko performance by 5th graders and Japanese language graduation speeches by the 6th Grade.
“We founded Daruma no Gakko to help our children build strong, positive self-images and identities through Japanese American history, literature, language, music, art, food, field trips and community involvement,” said Emiko Katusmoto, co-founder and current music teacher.
“It is such a pleasure to be teaching the next generation of Daruma no Gakko students,” added Katsumoto, whose granddaughter joined the student body last year as a kindergartener.
The four-week program is run entirely by parent volunteers — teachers and teacher aides are the only paid staff. This co-op approach, where each family contributes significantly to the daily classes and events, creates a strong sense of community.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to run the program,” said Julia Harumi Mass, a parent volunteer, “but it’s a labor of love. We have a terrific community and everyone pitches in to make it work. The children love it, and seeing their smiles makes it all worthwhile.”