Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Japanese shows kendo way

Fairfield also studies culture

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Morahiko Murakami took his left hand and put it on the bottom of a 3-foot long bamboo sword he brought from his native Japan.

        He placed his right hand on the handle and asked the 21 sixth-graders in Kathy Lorenz's Fairfield Intermediate School class to do the same with their swords before he quickly swung his overhead and back down again in one swift motion.

        For 45 minutes the 33-year-old Japanese physical education teacher worked with students in the middle school's gymnasium balco ny, teaching them the Japanese martial art of kendo. The students broke first into pairs and then small groups to learn how to hold their swords and proper movements.

        “It's harder than it looks,” said 12-year-old J.J. Lake. “There's so many steps you gotta learn while hitting.”

        Mr. Murakami is one of 15 Japanese teachers who are in Ohio through Fridayas part of a 4-year-old program sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education and initiated after a summit meeting between President Clinton and then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Mr. Murakami is the only Japanese teacher visiting reater Cincinnati.

        The visit's purpose is to have the Japanese instructors learn about American culture, daily life, social issues and the educational system. In Ohio, the visit is sponsored by the Institute for Japanese Studies at Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Education. Mr. Murakami is staying with Ms. Lorenz, who also hosted a Japanese teacher last year.

        During his month-long stay, Mr. Murakami has taught kendo to the sixth-graders at the school and visited some fifth grade classrooms. Students in Ms. Lorenz's classes have also learned origami, calligraphy, how to count to 10 in Japanese and and some other Japanese words.

        “I learned how to write words in Japanese - my name,” said Sara Dozier, 11. “I like having him here. It's cool.”

        But Sara, like her classmates, was intimidated at first when Mr. Murakamiasked each group to follow his motions.

        “I was scared,” said Sara, who thought she might get hit by a sword.

        Besides kendo, Mr. Murakami teaches his Japanese students tennis, volleyball, table tennis and other activities similar to physical education in America, he said. Next June, Mrs. Lorenz will go to Japan for two weeks through the Ohio branch of Great Lakes Japan in the Schools Project.


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