Because our in-person school visits have been cancelled for the remainder of 2019-20 school year, we are adding resources to our website so that children and adults can access from home.

July 7月 or 文月

July in Japan is the beginning of summer. After the rainy season, it gets hot. Japanese school  does not start summer vacation until July 22, Marine Day, which is the day the beaches open. The old name of the month is fuzuki or fumizuki, which means the month of literacy.

Tanabata 七夕 Star Festival

The seventh day of the seventh month is the Tanabata festival, also called the star festival. Tanabata is the biggest festival in July.

The festival originated in China, where women wished that their weaving and sewing skills would improve with needles with five color strings.

In Japan, it was combined with the original Japanese custom, and became an official court event in the Heian Period.  By the Edo period, ordinary people started celebrating the festival by putting bamboo trees on the roof with paper decorations.

Nowadays, people write a wish on long pieces of paper and hang them on to the bamboo branches along with other paper decorations. Some cities like Sendai are famous for celebrating this festival with elaborate decorations.

The story of the two stars is a love story.  Orihime, a weaver (Vega) who is a daughter of the emperor of the sky, and Hikoboshi, a cow herder (Altair), were in love and got married, but they were so happy together, they forgot about their work. The emperor became enraged and separated them on each side of the milky way. They were only allowed to meet once in a year on the seventh night of the seventh month. Watch the Tanabata story video.

How to make Tanabata decorations:

Fish net    Chain  nullLantern


Cut origami or construction colored paper in a rectangle big enough to write your wish. Punch a hole on top and use string to tie them on bamboo branches.

Summer Vacation (夏休み, natsu yasumi)

The Japanese school year starts in April and ends in March. The summer vacation is usually from July 21 until August 31. Because it is in the middle of the school year, children get homework and projects they have to work on during the vacation.

Here is an easy project often given to elementary school students. Grow a plant from a seed, like a sunflower or morning glory, and keep a plant journal to see how the plant grows every day.

Things you need:

  • Flower seeds
  • Growing container (like a paper cup, empty can, or plastic berry container)
  • Potting soil

Put soil in your container, plant a seed, water and watch it grow. If you want to try something different, cut a cherry tomato in half and plant it.

Enjoy Your Summer!

Radio Exercise: ラジオ体操

Do you know millions of Japanese participate in this morning exercise which has 90 years of history? It's simple -you should try it! To watch in English, check the links!  

                                                                         Exercise 1, Exercise 2

Last Months Links
Educational Resources: Taue, Organic Rice Benefits,  Teru-teru Bozu

Origami Tutorials: Hydrangea, Flip-over Frog, Jumping Frog, Koi Nobori, Kabuto  

Japan in the Schools

The Japan in the Schools (JIS) program, started in 1997, is a unique program that brings Japanese education into classrooms in Western PA. A wide variety of topics are covered in visits to local schools. Some topics include Japan today, Japanese history, language, culture, and origami. Download the curriculum flyer[PDF] for more information.

Volunteers of the JIS program respond to outreach requests from elementary, middle, and secondary schools, libraries,and other community partners. Authentic Japanese materials are used as teaching aids. This unique experience broadens a student's view of the world and the cultures in it.  

Request a visit!

Requesting a school visit is easy! Fill out this simple request form and Katsuko Shellhammer will coordinate the details of the visit.

Volunteer for the JIS!

Volunteers are the most essential part of the JIS. Without the help of dedicated and passionate volunteers, this program would not exist. All ages and nationalities are welcomed. The only requirement is a passion for Japan.  Sign up today!

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