December 26, 2006

Alumni Satoshi Yamaguchi selected for Japan's National Soccer Team


SG student council president Hitomi Nagura, Jpn team member Satoshi Yamaguchi, former SG soccer captain Yuki Tanaka

Satoshi Yamaguchi OB (old boy or alumni) from class of 1996 and a current member of the Japan J-League professional Gamba Osaka team, was recently selected as a member of the Japan National Soccer team. The Seiritsu student council president Hitomi Nagura, and last year’s school soccer team captain Yuki Tanaka, recently traveled to Osaka to congratulate and interview Yamaguchi.

When asked how he feels about been selected as a member of the national team, he replied 'since I always wanted to be a member of the national team, I am very happy. Ivan Ivica Oshim (Japan Head Coach) is different from other directors or coaches, and he has so many things to teach. I am proud of being chosen as a member.'

Yamaguchi also said, "the accumulation of one’s every day effort is required to become professional athlete. You won't succeed even if you are talented, because without an accumulation your efforts you actually do nothing. I have learned that the best shortcut to achieve my goals is, for example, to walk up stairs one step by one step, without looking ahead too much.’’

It was a short interview, but beneficial and enjoyable 30 minutes. Let's move forward slowly little by little, steadily making our dreams come true, just like our OB Yamaguchi. Also, let's continue our every day efforts so that we can be proud of ourselves in 10 years.

SG Student Council

December 21, 2006

Calligraphy 101

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Unkan Hyousei is a winter expression meaning 'the clouds are cold and the ice is clean', written by Murou Sensei, seen above with a visiting junior high school student.

Every civilization has a system of beautiful calligraphic practice, and in Japan it is called ‘shodo’. Here at Seiritsu, we have our own special shodo room, and more importantly, our own resident shodo master, Maruo Osamu Sensei. For 30 years, Maruo Sensei (who goes by Maruo Renshi in the shodo world) has guided the writing hands of our students, while he himself has become a renowned calligrapher, displaying his work often at galleries and calligraphy events, adjudicating competitions and sometimes producing pieces for the Mainichi Shinbun (‘Everyday Newspaper’), one of the largest newspapers in Japan.

The Japanese written language is partly made up of Chinese characters imported around 500AD, in Japanese called ‘kanji’. The other parts of the Japanese writing system, the separate hiragana and katakana syllabary scripts, are also derived from kanji. So when anything is written with a brush and ink on paper, it becomes shodo. To understand the art of shodo, one must first have a simple understanding of kanji.

Kanji are Chinese writing logograms, used to visually represent a meaning, similar to numbers. Kanji are normally pared up with other kanji or Japanese syllabary script to make words and individual kanji can be quite complex being made up of several kanji shrunken and put together, or common kanji elements combined.

There are 1945 individual ‘common kanji’ (jyoyo) taught to students, each school grade from elementary school to high school learning a certain set amount. Regular day use of kanji requires probably between 2000-3000 when technical kanji and odd kanji used for some personal names are counted. While there are said to be some 50,000+ kanji in Chinese, the maximum tested at the highest level of the Kanji Kentei (official) test in Japan is 6000. Of course, tens of thousands of words are made when individual kanji are paired together.

Japan inherited the different styles of shodo from China as well, and even today from a young age Japanese are taught to write with a brush. In the shodo world, there are block styles for engraved seals, square styles for printing, semi-cursive styles for ease of writing and cursive styles that can actually be almost unreadable.

Definitely shodo is an art form that has many variations, sometimes even avant-garde, and there are some ancient, profound guidelines to follow when writing, but here are some academic examples of the basics; the proper way one must hold the brush is upright, one must alignment the center of their body to the paper to provide balance, when writing attempt to create a right-side rising slope, try to fit all kanji into an imaginary pentagon shape, and make sure to keep the top and bottom of each kanji proportional to each other. The finished product is said to portray the writer’s awareness to what they are doing, a snapshot of their spirit at that moment, revealing their confidence, or lack of it, and of course the level of their overall skill.

There are many shodo associations in Japan which offer monthly grade tests. Also here at Seiritsu, we have a shodo club, carefully watched over by Maruo Sensei, so keep an eye on this space for a shodo club posting soon.

The two scanned pages are Maruo Sensei’s samples for what I have to practice this month. I thought the second one with all the notes explaining the proper shodo basics one must know to be quite visually interesting. Those little memos scattered all over the sheet state things like ‘thick line’, ‘thin line’, ‘rise to the right’, ‘this space small’, ‘this space same as above’, etc, with the numbers signifying the stroke orders.

As for now, I will tell you my favorite moment when I have my shodo lesson once a week with Maruo Sensei. For one month I only practice a short phrase over and over, one sheet at a time, and each time I finish a sheet Maruo Sensei corrects it with red ink and then I try again. Well, the part I enjoy the most, other than being finally told I’ve ‘nailed’ it (which is not often) and that I can move on to the next phrase, are those times when he praises me for what I thought he would for sure say is a mistake. In those very rare moments, he explains it is obvious I was very conscious of the stroke when I made it. One with the brush, or simple luck, well, only time will tell.

If you visit our school, inevitability Maruo Sensei will whisk you off to the shodo room to let you try making your own characters with a brush, even if you’ve never studied Japanese before. The results are always interesting, and you get to take home a unique souvenir…


December 18, 2006

Trilingual student gets accepted to top 5 university!

The first thing that you notice when you talk to Maika Hamada (3-L class, 18yrs) is how awake and curious she is. To have passed the entrance exams to Keio University, one of the top 5 universities in Japan, she would have to be.

Maika was born in Ibaraki, about 3 hours by bullet train from Tokyo. She attended a Protestant kindergarten and once acted as Mary in a Christmas school play. She took piano lessons, but she was unfortunately bullied in elementary school and then again in junior high school by jealous students for perhaps studying hard.

A turning point in her young life was when her family moved to Moscow due to her father’s work from when she was 13 to 15 years old. The first thing she thought when she saw the Russian written language was, ‘is this really how they write?’ But she studied Russian diligently along with Japanese and English at an international school, where she met other students from many different countries.

Her Russian piano teacher left a strong impression on her, stating she played the piano too technically and that she had to put real emotion into her playing if she wanted to improve.

It took Maika about 12 months to become conversational in Russian and she still talks to friends she made in Russian over the phone from time to time. Russian pancakes (belini) are her favorite Russian food, small crepes she likes to top with sour cream and ikura (salmon roe).

The family moved back to Japan settling in Saitama, just north of Tokyo, and she passed the high school entrance tests to come to Seiritsu. She has enjoyed her time here and has made good friends plus never been bullied, while her hobbies have been continuing to learn Russian, drawing illustrations of people, and making sweets at home.

At Keio University, she has been accepted into the Comprehensive Policy department. But she is going to also try to pass the entrance exams for the Keio Law department and the Waseda University Politics and Economic department as well. I did mention she’s very curious right?

Her dream job is to be a foreign movie buyer, bringing foreign films to Japan. Her favorite film is the aristocratic love story ‘Onegin’ released in 1999, based on the Alexander Pushkin novel ‘Eugene Onegin’.

When asked what she wants foreigners to know about Japan, one thing is that not all Japanese are small, which was what Russians always asked her. The second is that Japanese are able to balance the separate religions of Buddhism and Shinto, both having their peaceful place in Japan.

Maika feels that while in Japan being shy is considered by some to be beautiful, and what one doesn’t say is just as important as what one does say, she would like to see Japanese people express themselves more. If Japanese want to be understood abroad, they need to speak up. As for Maika, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, and for sure Keio is happy to have her curious nature from next April.



December 1, 2006

Arai Wins Two Bronze Medals at the Junior Synchronised Worlds

Miho Arai (third year class 3-I) represented Japan at the FINA Junior Synchronised World Championships in Foshan Guangdong, China. The event was held from October 7-11. Miho won bronzes in the categories Team Free Combination & Free Routine.

Way to go Miho!!!

(pictures: Miho with Seiritsu Prinicipal Fukuda, and Japanese team)
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about Seiritsu

Seiritsu Gakuen is a private co-educational high school created in 1925 and it is located in Tokyo, Japan.

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