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 Menu

The Story of Ikkyu

Ikkyu was the most famous Zen monk in Japanese history. He was known for his quick‐wittedness to deal with challenges by authority, and his ability to find clever and creative solutions at the moment. There are so many fun, witty, and surprising stories of Ikkyu and Japanese people still tell them. Here, we’d love to introduce two stories of Ikkyu, and photos of his temple in Kyoto!

Screenplay and Illustrations by COCORO Narration
Voice of Ikkyu by Toko Shiiki
Voice of Osho-san and
the Shogun by Erik Santos

Special thanks to COCORO, Toko Shiiki, and Erik Santos for generously sharing the rights to this video with the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati. We sincerely appreciate this special gift to our community!

Hello Japan!

“We’d love to share JAPAN with you!” Japanese filmmaker Toko Shiiki asked some Japanese to submit material to help create this video, together, to encourage cultural interaction. Download the study guide to follow along with the video!

Cincinnati Meets Japan

As a follow-up to our “Hello Japan” video, Toko Shiiki collaborated with us to create this video to highlight important people and organizations in Greater Cincinnati that have contributed to intercultural understanding between Japan and the U.S., including historical figures Lafcadio Hearn, Kitaro Shirayamadani and Etsu Sugimoto, and in modern times, Dr. Kinji Tanaka, the Japan Research Center of Greater Cincinnati, the Japanese Citizens League, and the Japanese Language School of Greater Cincinnati.

Koto (Japanese Harp)

A koto, or Japanese harp, is a stringed instrument that 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
Suggested Age Minimum: None (Suitable for all ages)
Group Size: Unlimited
Fee: Negotiable

Karesansei (Dry Rock Garden)

Karesansui, or dry rock gardens, 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
Suggested Age Minimum: 15 years
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, paper was expensive to produce and was therefore treated with great respect.

The Japanese Crane is a popular origami design; cranes symbolize health, hope and longevity. 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
Suggested Age Minimum: 10 years
Maximum Group Size: 20 (Additional classroom helpers may be needed)
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
Suggested Age Minimum: None (Suitable for 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 only arms and legs are used, without weapons. 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
Suggested Age Minimum: 6 years
Maximum Group Size: 20 
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
Maximum Group Size: 10
Fee: $150 + materials ($15-$20/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 conducted as a hands-on workshop and 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
Suggested Age Minimum: 8 years
Maximum Group Size: 15
Fee: $150 (including all materials)

Tea Ceremony (Sadou)

The “Way of Tea,” usually translated as “Tea Ceremony,” incorporates various aspects of Japanese culture. It involves particular settings, methods, manners and equipment for drinking green tea. In some Japanese homes, there is a dedicated space for practicing it. An important part of Japanese history,  traditional clothing, cuisine, tools, and gardens have evolved in conjuction with the art.  

In this workshop, you will watch temae (the tea making process) and experience it yourself. Demonstrations are also possible and are well-suited to larger groups. 

Program Information: 
Length: Approximately 1 hour
Suggested Age Minimum: 7 years
Maximum Group Size: Unlimited (for demonstrations) 
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
Suggested Age Minimum: 8-years
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.  

In 2021 we will also begin offering several of our programs via Zoom, so please stay tuned. 

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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