Japanese Cultural Programs, Workshops & Digital Media

Cultural education is a crucial part of our mission! We offer a variety of interactive workshops and presentations for schools, libraries, and other groups in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky through our Cultural Ambassadors Program. 

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Cultural Programs

Koto (Japanese Harp)

A koto, or Japanese harp, is a stringed instrument that can sound like a harp. It originally came to Japan from China around 1300 years ago. Japanese adapted it to suit their music over a long period. It became prevalent among aristocrats and was played only by women until the Twentieth Century.

A koto is six feet long and a foot wide and has thirteen strings. It is played by strumming and plucking with picks on three fingers. Some pieces of music include plucking with the fingertips of the left hand, without picks. The sounds produced are mostly soft and can bring to mind blossoms drifting down a gentle breeze, or a flowing river.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 30 minutes
Age Minimum: None (Suitable for all ages)
Group Size: Unlimited
Fee: Negotiable

Karesansei (Dry Rock Garden)

Karesansui, or dry rock garden, are gardens that use stones, sand, or gravel (occasionally moss) to represent water and mountains. Karesansui was a part of the introduction of Zen Buddhism in Japan, with designs focused on aspects of meditation. Many of the gardens in Kyoto temple gardens are well-known Karesansui made during that time.

Each garden has a unique style and should be viewed from a single, seated perspective. There are about 6 different styles of rock gardens. They are flat, semi-flat, dry stream, dry pond, artificial hills, and unique ones that do not fit into a category. Choose this demonstration to learn about the different techniques of rock gardening and experience a miniature one of your own!

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 15-year-old
Group Size: Unlimited
Fee: $150

Origami (Japanese Paper Folding)

Origami is the traditional art of paper folding. It has been widely practiced by children (as well as adults) in Japan since it was introduced in the late sixth century by Buddhist monks. In ancient Japan, the paper was expensive to produce and was therefore treated with great respect.

The Japanese crane is a popular origami design with a meaning of hope. Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true. In this workshop, participants will learn basic techniques and create one or more designs (usually animals).

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 10-year-old
Group Size: 20
Fee: $150 (including all materials)

Kamishibai (Paper Theater)

A vibrant form of storytelling popular in Japan, Kamishibai (kah-mee-she-bye), or “paper-theater,” is part of a long tradition of picture storytelling in Japan. Kamishibai flourished as a street-performance art from the 1920s to the 1950s and has seen a revival in recent years.

The performer would bring the story to neighborhoods on a bicycle equipped with a wooden stage and then loudly strike two wooden sticks. This sound would signal children to come and gather for an exciting story and candy. Choose this program to experience the history of Japanese storytelling.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: All Ages
Group Size: 5-25
Fee: $150

Karate

One of several famous martial arts practiced in Japan, karate, is a highly respected discipline and a popular sport. Karate means “empty hand” meaning they use their arms and legs only. In this workshop, participants will learn basic techniques and the meaning behind various movements. They will also learn basic greetings and how to count to 10 in Japanese.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 6-years-old
Group Size: 20 (MAX)
Fee: $150 (including all materials)

Ikebana

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. In this workshop, participants will learn about the traditional Japanese way of arranging flowers and other types of plants and have the opportunity to construct a simple arrangement to take home.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: Adults Only
Group Size: 10
Fee: $150 + materials (approximately $15/person)

Japanese Calligraphy

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to the Japanese writing system and have a chance to practice writing primary characters (also known as “ideograms”) and simple words in Japanese. This activity can be in a traditional workshop style. However, it is also well-suited to cultural fairs in which children and parents stop by the table for short periods and “sample” the activity. Participants will create a souvenir bookmark on Japanese-style paper using Japanese characters.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 8-years-old
Group Size: 15
Fee: $150 (including all materials)

Tea Ceremony (Sadou)

The Japanese tea ceremony is composed of various aspects of Japanese culture. It involves being in very particular places, procedures, and equipment for drinking green tea. Usually, there is a dedicated space in the home to practice the tea ceremony. This ceremony is a big part of history involving traditional clothes, cuisine, tools, and gardens. 

In this workshop, you will watch temae (tea making procedure) and experience it yourself. We may also demonstrate temae in an event if that format is preferred. 

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 7-years-old
Group Size: 5-unlimited
Fee: $150 + Materials (including matcha tea and sweets)

Presentations on Japan

Our presentations on Japan cover various topics, including history, geography, customs and etiquette, the education system, daily life, traveling in Japan, etc., as appropriate to the group and event. Please let us know your interests and needs, and we will discuss various options with you.

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Age Minimum: 8-years-old
Group Size: Unlimited
Fee: $150

Interested in our cultural programs?

ATTN: If you are interested in arranging a program, please contact Anna Thorner by email or phone, at least one month in advance of your desired program date(s). 

Cultural education is a crucial part of our mission! We offer a variety of interactive workshops and presentations for schools, libraries, and other groups in Greater Cincinnati* and Northern Kentucky through our Cultural Ambassadors Program. These are available for a modest fee that covers the cost of materials and the hiring of presenters with subject-area expertise.

*Programs may be available outside of the Greater Cincinnati area (including Dayton, Ohio) at a higher fee to cover additional travel expenses.

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What Our Participants Are Saying

“The calligraphy was very well received by our students and other community members. THANK YOU! My (15-year old) daughter, who was there to help out with the program, was very proud of her Japanese calligraphy writing. The Japanese calligraphy activity added to the variety of our offerings, as well. We will definitely be in touch again next year.”
– J.W, Assistant Principal, Cincinnati-area elementary school