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[REPORT] NYdV Explore Japanese Culture: Cultural Immersion Program at NYC Recreation Centers and the Leaders High School

Grant Project Report by Hiromi Zeppieri at the Japan Foundation New York.

NY de Volunteer, a non-profit organization that provides social contribution programs to promote cultural exchange between Japan and the United States, and a current grant recipient of the Japan Foundation NY grant, collaborated with the Leaders High School to organize a Japanese Cultural Week program.  

This year’s Japanese Cultural Week program included sessions on karate, Japanese cooking, Japanese tea, Japanese music, and Japanese calligraphy. Twenty-four (24) students signed up for the program. I had the honor to visit and observe the karate and Japanese cooking lessons.

Mr. Ryu Goto from the Japanese American Budokan led the Karate lesson. Before the karate lesson, Goto-sensei shared his history and the importance of martial arts. According to Goto-sensei, martial arts not only teaches you the physical but also the cultural and mental aspects in depth as additional benefits of the training. Goto-sensei started with how to hold fists, then how to front kick, round house kick and the crescent kick. Many students were shy at first but by the end of the lesson, all the students were engaged and having fun. As an adult, I relearned the importance of physical movements that make your mind “healthy.”

The second lesson was the cooking lesson by Japanese chef Mr. Kakusaburo Sakurai from Wasan Brooklyn. Chef Kaku’s cooking lesson was how to make hand rolled sushi and miso soup. First Chef Kaku demonstrated how to make homemade miso soup. He said it’s quite simple and if you know the base of the soup, then you can add any kind of vegetable that you enjoy. After making the miso soup, Chef Kaku talked about the importance of having a very sharp knife for cooking. Then, he demonstrated how to make Katsuramuki, which is a technique of how to peel a daikon radish paper thin.

Many students in the class have eaten nigiri sushi or rolled sushi like California rolls, but they never heard about or eaten handrolled sushi. Hand rolled sushi is often enjoyed in Japanese homes. To make it is a simple as placing sushi rice on nori (seaweed) and adding any kind of fillings that you would like. Chef Kaku prepared shrimp tempura, chicken tempura, raw salmon, fish cake, avocado, cucumber, some pickled ginger as well as wasabi on the side. Students fully enjoyed both the making and consuming of the hand rolled sushi and miso soup. I asked students about their favorite fillings and many students answered the chicken and shrimp tempura.

As it is almost the end of the school year. The Japan Club and the Japanese Cultural Week made a great positive impact on the students of Leaders High School. NY de Volunteer’s events throughout the year have made Japanese culture both tangible and easy to understand. I am sure that many students will look back to their high school life and remember the fun times that they spent at the events conducted by NY de Volunteer.

For more information, please visit NY de Volunteer.

JFNY supports this NY de Volunteers’ initiative with the Salary Assistance Grant under the U.S.-Japan Community Grassroots Exchange Program

Picture #1, #2, #3: Karate lesson at the Japanese American Budokan by Ryu Goto-sensei
Picture #4 to #8: Students learning how to make hand rolled sushi from Chef Kaku