Introspection through Japanese Culture

Posted by Mina Nishisaka on Jan 28, 2020 6:33:04 PM

The Japanese Culture Course at Hitotsubashi ICS takes students on a 6-week journey from ancient/traditional Japanese culture to modern-day Japanese pop culture, each course under a concept such as 和(Wa Harmony, ), 神仏(Shimbutsu Gods and Buddhas), 節(Setsu Milestones and Transitions), 礼(Rei Manners, Appreciation, Courtesy), 粋(Iki Chic, Cool, etc.), and かわいい(Kawaii Cute, Adorable, Imperfect,etc.) Course instructors Motoko Kimura and Mina Nishisaka from WaNavi Japan take students outside the classroom each week to allow students to use their five senses and to discover Japanese culture in a holistic way.

Each week is designed so that students have an overall understanding of the background, history, and societal implementations around each concept, and is followed by field-trips to explore Japan and to give students a hands-on experience with some of the most important aspects of Japanese culture, presented and facilitated by leading Masters.

For the concept of 和 (Wa, Harmony), the students learn about the deep history and philosophy behind 茶道, the way of tea, and how it embodies the spirit of "Wa and Omotenashi (hospitality)." Following the lecture, students experience a formal tea ceremony at a Japanese tea house and garden hosted by Tea Masters Ms. Kawashima and Ms. Nozaki, who have been practicing tea ceremony for over 50 years. 

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Experiencing tea ceremony allows you to use your five senses in a holistic way. Not only do you savour the taste of the tea and sweets, you appreciate the flowers and calligraphy through your eyes, you hear the sound of the water boiling and the tea being whisked through your ears, you feel the warmness of the tea bowl with your hands, and you enjoy the scent of the incense through your nose. In a digital world where we use our heads so heavily, students enjoy stimulating and cultivating their other senses.

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For the 神仏(Shimbutsu Gods and Buddhas) concept, students make a trip to the ancient samurai city of Kamakura, escaping the skyscrapers and scramble intersections. At Engakuji Temple, one of the most ancient and prestigious Zen temples in Japan, we pay a visit to Zen Priest Ichido Uchida. Priest Uchida instructs zen meditation in a way that beginners are able to experience, and the students are able to enjoy a tranquil time for introspection.

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Priest Ichido is always open to various questions on culture, life, how to manage your emotions, and zen philosophy. The Q&A sessions always lead to deep conversations on life and how to integrate zen into our daily lives. Many students take this teaching wholeheartedly, and many of our alumni come back each year for the zen meditation session. 

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For the concept "Setsu, celebrating milestones through the seasons and life events," the class takes a look at how the Japanese cherish milestones both in the seasons and in life. Following the lecture is an Ikebana (Japanese Flower Arrangement) session led by Ms. Seisho Okudaira of the Sekiso School of Ikebana. Students experience a dialogue with their inner souls through the plants and flowers. What come out as a result are beautiful masterpieces, all unique to each person. Ms. Seisho Okudaira gives feedback on each masterpiece, giving deep insight into the thinking, character, and the current state of the creator so accurate it always stuns them. It gives the students a hint to reflect on their mission and purpose in life. 

Ms. Okudaira teaches us that taking some time to move your hands and interact with flowers and plants helps us to escape the busyness and clutter of the mind. She tells students that Japanese culture is full of wisdom that allows us to live peacefully even when the world and life is harsh on us, and encourages students to take some time to stop and enjoy trees and flowers even in our daily lives. 

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The concept of Rei brings students to a Samurai Training House to learn about the way of the Samurai from Dr. Kiyomoto Ogasawara, neuroscientist is the 32nd Generation Heir to the Grand Master of the Ogasawara-ryū School of Etiquette, Archery, and Mounted Archery. His family has been teaching the Shogun, the leader of the Samurai, the etiquette and teachings of the Ogasawara-ryū. Dr. Ogasawara gives a lecture on the Ogasawara-ryū etiquette, and instructs students on basic Japanese etiquette movements including standing, walking, sitting down, and drinking tea. Students are also invited to experience the basics of archery and mounted archery in the training hall surrounded by bows, arrows, and warrior armors passed down through generations in the Ogasawara Family. Students experience first-hand the underlying foundation of Japanese etiquette; simplicity, practicality, and beauty.

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The world of Kawaii takes students into the crazier part of Japanese culture with an influx of Kawaii characters, products, food, and dances.  After the lecture of the Kawaii culture and how the government is trying to export this soft power as part of the "Cool Japan Project," students dive into the delirious world of Kawaii at the Monster Cafe in Harajuku.  Students also examine how the Kawaii culture is being merchandized and monetized in various forms through a stroll down Takeshita street, which is the Mecca of the Kawaii culture. 

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Developed in the Edo period, students unravel the world of "Iki 粋” through a Japanese Classical Dance experience and a Kabuki show.

In class, we welcome Ms. Ume Nakamura from the renowned Nakamura Family of the Kabuki world. Through movements and expressions, students are encouraged to embody the lyrics and use their imagination.

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Through this six-week journey, students experience Japanese culture through their five senses, and attain a deeper understanding of Japan, its culture, and its people. 

Japanese culture provides many experiences on being present in the now and how to cultivate emotional well-being. In a fast and ever-changing world, sometimes it helps to stop searching for answers, simply go back to being in the present and look within yourself. 

As future business leaders, we truly hope that students can take something from Japanese culture to enrich their lives and to contribute to a better society.



Topics: Japanese Culture, Life at Hitotsubashi ICS

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