Thursday, March 14, 2013

LHS visits the American School in Japan

The group spent the majority of their day in the American School in Japan (ASIJ), a K-12 school modeled after American school systems. Unlike schools such as Ushiku High School and public schools in Japan, students are less focused on passing Japanese university exams and more focused on American studies and its respective standardized testing.  Students who attend the school hail from many corners of the world, including Australia, Holland, Hong Kong, and, of course, the US.

Isao Tsujimoto
While at ASIJ, the group had the opportunity to tour "Voices from Japan," an exhibition composed of tanka poems. Tanka is a form of Japanese poetry that is five lines and 31 syllables long. One of the poets featured in the exhibit described in his biography that tankas force you to strip anything in access.

"This exhibition was collected by myself and others," said Isao Tsujimoto, who curated the exhibit. "It is a kind of Japan's response to the help of many people all over the world."

Tsujimoto collected 100 tanka poems to include in his exhibition. The poems follow the emotional disaster that occurred during and after 3/11. 

"This exhibit is particularly very unique because it features poems of ordinary Japanese people: teachers, housewives, students, fishermen, etc.," Tsujimoto said. "I wanted to hear what the people of Japan were thinking and feeling."

The exhibit was very simple: poems were printed onto poster paper and taped onto metal music stands. Photos of the featured poets and disaster locations were framed throughout the narrow gallery, and flowers grew in tiny pots below each stand.

"I felt like the tankas were particularly powerful because they were all so concentrated. You have the emotion of a certain period of time compressed into this one, five line push," said senior Ryan Dinneen. "They all had varying affects and varying meanings, but overall I would say that I have gained a better understanding of the emotional events of the triple disaster and the people who were affected by it."

he hangs up
saying "you don't have to worry" --
my strong-minded child
staying behind
in Fukushima

-- Mutsuko Sawada, Kanagawa  May 2011

"This tanka really touched me because the way the poem was written really conveyed the fear that she had about his life," said senior Catherine Patton. "While we've been hear, I feel like one of the main things that we haven't been able to directly experience the disaster that the people have been experiencing. That's why I really liked this exhibit with the poetry because it really spoke to me and it really gave me a sense of the deep emotion they were experiencing; it sort of completed the picture for me.

as we air the bedding
I wonder, "could I protect you
at such a time?" --
my child who turned off
the news in fear

-- Yuka Sato, Niigata  April 2011

"I'm home," I cry
as I enter
the empty house --
my voice responding
to the familiar smells

-- Keiko Hangui, Fukushima  May 2011

in one glance --
reduced to a bottled wasteland
narcissus blooming heroically
in a garden

-- Keiko Hangui, Fukushima  March 2012

After the exhibit, students write letters to poets whose tankas spoke out to them.

from the muddy stream
he saved three children for us --
a diver
with eyes wild and bloodshot
like a wandering samurai

-- Fujiko Suda, Miyagi  June 2011

"That poem was very powerful and very vivid," said senior Sam Martens. "I wrote a letter to that poet, and I told him that his poetry was very vivid and that I could see it in my mind's eye. I thanked him in kanji."

Afterwards, students were able to tour ASIJ and meet current high school students.

"ASIJ is pretty much like an American school," said senior Joe Encinias. "It's way more modern than the Toyo school we visited; there's way more technology. It seemed like [students] moved classes like we do, but in Toyo students stayed in one class."

After their tour, students were taught how to make origami cranes with a twist -- students taught them while speaking Japanese.  Other ASIJ students sat with LHS and translated for the team as they created their birds.

After visiting ASIJ, the team participated in sight seeing activities around Tokyo by visiting a Shinto temple and shopping in the local district.


  1. These poems are hauntingly beautiful and provide such a personal insight into the tragedy. It must have been difficult for the authors to capture the enormity of their feelings in such few words. The resulting poems truly embrace the raw core of their emotions, and are evidence that sometimes less is more. Very moving.

  2. Wow, what an awesome trip and a stunning blog! You are making Littleton very proud. Thanks for making this journey and carrying our good will to Japan. As the father of an alumnus of LHS and a proud employee of LPS, I am so excited for you! Go Lions!

    -Dan Maas, Ed.D. LPS Chief Information Officer