Design Your Own Japanese Immersion Program

Friday, March 30, 2007

If the festivities and exhibits during the National Cherry Blossom Festival leave you longing for more, the Smithsonian Associates' "Japan Wow! From Traditions to Trends" series includes dozens of demonstrations, classes and lectures in the next two months, many with ties to festival events. Prices range from $5 for children's events to $275 for some of the multi-session courses; many events are $25 to $35. For information on locations, prices and tickets, call 202-357-3030 weekdays from 9 to 5 or visit

Ukiyo-e artist Mari Mihashi, whose art is on display at the Japan Information and Culture Center, will perform a brief tea ceremony to draw down the creative spirits before explaining (via an interpreter) her materials and methods in a lecture-demonstration April 15. Hanga, the modern-day woodblock prints using traditional techniques, like those on display at the Library of Congress, are the subject of a four-lesson series, "Moku-Hanga: The Japanese Woodblock Print," led by Washington printmaker Robert Lindsay, beginning May 10.

Complementing the anime marathon at the Freer Gallery is a seminar April 21 on "Manga to Anime: From Astro Boy to 'Spirited Away,' " detailing the rise of manga, or Japanese comics, from the first newspaper strips just after World War II to Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning film from 2001, which became the most successful film in Japanese history. (Miyazaki's equally celebrated post-apocalyptic parable, the 1984 "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds," screens at 10:30 and 1 Saturday at the National Building Museum.) There is also a seminar on Japanese new-wave and contemporary film directors, "Japanese Cinema and the Changing Family," May 1 with screenings the following three Tuesdays.

The 15-member Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe presents four traditional pieces using life-size and half-size puppets, each manipulated by three puppeteers, some "invisible" in black hoods, April 27 at 7:30. The troupe gives children's performances at 10:15 and 11:30 that day through the Discovery Theater program (202-357-1500); there is also a Kodomo-No-Hi (Children's Day) festival with dancers and art tours of the Sackler Gallery on May 4.

For a description of the May 12 food seminar, "Beyond Sushi: Culinary Japan From Classical to Modern," see Page 18. And even though there is no actual food involved, those interested in alternative and natural health care should look into "An Inspiring Evening With Michio Kushi," one of the pioneers of the macrobiotic movement, May 22.

You can follow up on festival exhibits of ikebana (flower arranging), Japanese calligraphy and origami with a six-session course on ikebana starting May 7, eight lessons in ink painting and calligraphy beginning April 22, and a three-hour origami lesson May 5. There are also armchair tours of Tokyo (April 16) and Kyoto (June 9); discussions of Buddhism and Shinto influences on Japanese history (April 21) and of "Robots, Science, Technology" (May 19); a panel discussion on the state of the Japan-U.S. alliance featuring Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Howard Baker (June 7); even a field trip for shopaholics to New York's Japanese designer boutiques (May 19).

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