Yumi Kurosawa, an innovative musician from Japan, performed traditional Japanese koto music Monday for students in first and second grade at North Elementary School.
Kurosawa's visit was sponsored by Masakazu Kigure, the consulate general of Japan in New York. The primary role of the visit was to promote a better understanding of Japan and Japanese culture.
Visiting with Kurosawa and Kigure were Debbie Nicholson, West Virginia Department of Education coordinator of world languages; and Mami Itamochi, West Virginia Department of Education coordinator of international education.
North Elementary School students learn more about Japanese culture as Yumi Kurosawa plays the koto
Kurosawa was born and raised in Japan, and began studying the 13-string koto at the age of 3. She was first taught by her parents, Kazuo and Chikako Kurosawa. At the age of 15, Kurosawa began studying the 20-string Koto under the direction of Nanae Yoshimura. She has toured in Japan, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Russia and the United States.
In 2002, Kurosawa moved to New York and has appeared at Apollo Sound Stage, Joe's Pub, WNYC radio and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie.
Teachers Leslie Louk and Donna Hamrick have been teaching their pupils how to speak Japanese with help of a pilot program in West Virginia called Language Leaper. Developed through a State Education Agency Foreign Language Assistance Program Grant, the program features elementary content enhanced by various media.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
North Elementary School students in Leslie Louk’s first grade and Donna Hamrick’s second grade enjoy listening to Yumi Kurosawa play a Koto on Monday. Both classes are learning to speak Japanese through the West Virginia Department of Education Language Leaper Program. The visit was sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in New York, Masakazu Kigure, and was designated to promote a better understanding of Japan and Japanese culture.
"The students really enjoyed listening to the music and learning about the Japanese culture," Hamrick said. "They have learned some phrases, and one of the students has a grandfather who was a businessman in Japan. ... He has been sharing stories and staying connected."
Nicholson said the program is unique in that the instructors are not native speakers.
"The program is designed for teachers to help the students learn Japanese, even though they are not fluent in the language," Nicholson said. "This is our second year with the program and it is working well.
"We provide four opportunities for the students to meet with Japanese people each year, and this visit was a great sharing of culture and music," Nicholson said. "We even utilize Skype to provide contact between the students and native Japanese."
The pilot program for Japanese at North Elementary School is one of only three such programs in the state.