1. Between Nohthing and Being

    March 2, 2024 by Koko K.

    Driving Question:

    How does Japan’s culture perceive the concept of “existence”?

    Project Summary:

    Koko K., a Grade 10 student at TGs from Japan and Singapore, undertook a personal project titled “Between Nothing and Being.” This project explored Noh, a traditional Japanese theater form dating back to the 14th century. Through her research, Koko discovered that Noh theater requires an actor to possess inner solitude and concentration, allowing them to transcend their body and achieve a unique state of presence and groundedness.

    Her project delved into the Japanese cultural concept of existence, using Noh and the pine tree (matsunoi), a symbol of eternity and longevity, as central themes. She examined how Shinto, which emphasizes the worship of nature and inanimate objects, and Buddhism, which focuses on change and impermanence, shape Japanese views on existence.

    Koko engaged with multicultural literacy through this project, rediscovering and appreciating her Japanese culture. Her research included analyzing and reflecting on books about Shinto and Buddhism, attending Noh lessons with Kinue Ooshima Sensei, and studying Noh routines. She also compared Japanese concepts of existence with Western philosophical ideas from thinkers such as Victor Frankl, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Aristotle.

    Koko concluded that Japanese culture perceives existence as a balance between Shinto’s eternity and Buddhism’s impermanence. In Japan, the worship of kami (gods) in nature symbolizes eternity, while the frequent natural disasters and seasonal changes emphasize the impermanence of life. This cultural balance is reflected in the construction of buildings like shrines, which are designed to be periodically destroyed and rebuilt.

    In her final summative product, Koko aimed to manifest this concept of existence by performing the Noh routine “Yuya,” striving to achieve neutrality in her physicality and mentality. She reflected on her learning process, acknowledging the need for better time management and a more chronological approach to her research.

    Overall, the project deepened Koko’s understanding of Japanese customs, values, and beliefs, helping her to embrace her Japanese identity with confidence.

  2. Wall E^3: Exploring the Eras of Energy

    by Sigurd R. and Sarfo A.

    Driving Question:

    How might we understand the relationship between humans and energy in the past, present, and future of Japan?

    Module Summary:

    The module “Wall-EEE: Exploring the Eras of Energy” investigated the relationship between humans and energy in Japan, focusing on past, present, and future perspectives. Students learned about energy management, use, and production from cultural, spiritual, and scientific viewpoints. The module included guest speakers: one discussed Shinto Buddhism, another from the Japanese government, and a historian/scientist on atomic bomb survivors.

    Their investigations involved exploring Hiroshima’s energy systems, experimenting with renewable energy models, and visiting various sites. These included a Shinto Buddhist temple, Disneyland, museums, a nuclear power plant, and Mazda’s factory, to understand different aspects of energy use and management.

    The module culminated in creating a model and theoretical framework for an energy system in Hiroshima, addressing existing gaps. They employed human-centered design principles, inspired by insights from Disney and Mazda, to ensure user-friendly and efficient designs. They concluded by inviting attendees to see their demonstrations and final products.

    For their final product, Sigurd R. and Sarfo A. developed an automated circuit designed to store and utilize the limited power generated by solar panels for Hiroshima’s tram system. Their aim was to eventually take tram stations off the grid with an effective battery management system. During their survey of Hiroshima, they noticed tram stops that provided shelter to passengers. Inspired by this, they proposed installing solar panels at these stops to harness energy.

    In Hiroshima, trams are much more prolific there than in most other cities, which typically have metro systems without above-ground stations and therefore cannot utilize solar energy. Additionally, the tram system of Hiroshima was one of the first infrastructures rebuilt after the bomb, symbolizing hope and reconstruction after the war.

  3. A Tale of Two Cities 

    by Kenzo W.

    Driving Question:

    How can we apply the Japanese approach of cultural conservation to design for architectural renovation or innovation in our own home cities?

    Module Summary:

    The teacher-led module “A Tale of Two Cities” focuses on architectural innovation and cultural conservation. The students got to explore how Japanese cultural conservation approaches could be applied to architectural renovation in their home cities. Throughout the term, they had the opportunity to learn from local and global architectural techniques and delve deeper into their own cultural techniques.

    Kenzo W.’s 3D design for the Tale of Two Cities module is a modern Japanese resort/vacation home located in Karuizawa, a town in Nagano prefecture, Japan. This house is designed to accommodate 2-4 residents during the summertime and integrates both traditional and modern Japanese architectural concepts and furnishings, reflecting a blend of his artistic choices and elements from the Japanese lifestyle.

    The key Japanese architectural concepts Kenzo W. focused on were Oku (depth) and the Doma (earthen floor), which were highlighted by guest speaker Professor Daniel during the Kyoto Wexplore. Professor Daniel explained these concepts and their connection to Japanese culture, and the session venue itself represented Oku, the Doma, and the Nakaniwa. In Kenzo’s design, Oku is represented through the flow of the house, emphasizing the concept of depth within a building. The bedroom, the most private part of the house, is the room that requires the most walking to reach, with personal activity spaces like the living room, recreational room, and dining room leading up to it. Despite the large windows on the second floor, there is no direct access to the outside environment.

    The Doma is incorporated through the literal use of an earthen floor in the entryway, serving as a foundation and a slight height difference from the garden and the interior of the house. This facilitates the Japanese tradition of removing shoes when going inside and outside, supported by a shoe box, and acts as a border and gateway to the outside spaces of the house. Kenzo also included Shoji, Tatami, and Futon furnishings to suit the Japanese lifestyle for the intended residents, making the house cozy and representative of a traditional Japanese lifestyle, ideal for his family as a vacation home.

    One of the unique elements Kenzo W. focused on is the roofing, which he considers a key identifying feature of a Japanese house. The design features an angled sloped gable roof fused with a smaller gable roof at a 90˚ angle, emulating the curves of natural environments and avoiding a cubic appearance. This roof design opens up on one side to create more space for windows in the living and recreational areas, directing the house’s face towards a scenic view.

    Kenzo chose to incorporate modern architectural elements as a personal aesthetic preference, inspired by the style of Japanese villa homes, such as those designed by M’s architect. This is reflected in his choice of a gray and brown color scheme from wood and metal materials. He also considered the environment by incorporating large windows facing a predominant direction to take advantage of views such as a sunrise, sunset, or mountain scenery.

  4. Manga Evolution

    by Nefertari J. and Esha V.

    Driving Question:

    How can Japanese visual storytelling techniques document historical and cultural events?

    Module Summary:

    The Manga Evolution module explored how Japanese visual storytelling techniques document historical and cultural events. The module covers traditional Japanese art forms like sumi-e (ink painting), ukiyo-e (woodblock printing), kamishibai (oral storytelling), and manga (contemporary art form).

    The students practiced dynamic movement in sumi-e, created layered prints in ukiyo-e, analyzed anime like “Demon Slayer,” and learned to read and draw manga. They visited the Manga Museum in Kyoto, attended drawing workshops, and honed their storytelling skills by creating narrative storyboards based on photos taken in Hiroshima.

    Field experiences in Kyoto and Tokyo included visits to the Studio Ghibli Museum, TeamLab Planets, and the Tokyo National Museum. The final project required students to choose a significant historical or cultural event in Japan, create an eight-frame storyboard, and bring one panel to life using their chosen medium.

    Esha V.’s final product is a scaled-up version of a Hanafuda card of her own design. This artwork incorporates watercolor, an element she integrated based on her experience with sumi-e. Through practicing sumi-e, Esha learned about opacity and color, skills she then applied to her final product. By iterating on her design and creating multiple drafts before commencing the final piece, she ensured she evaluated numerous ways of presenting her ideas. This thorough process allowed her to ultimately decide on a composition that effectively communicates the story within the frame.

    For her final project, Nefertari J. chose a historical and cultural event to explore the meaning of being in Japan: the Atomic Bomb. Creating a storyboard helped her turn complex events into a coherent visual story, enhancing her narrative skills, whilst the module’s workshops and practice improved her artistic abilities. She examined the distinctions between Japanese culture and her own, particularly the Atomic Bomb.

    Balancing research, creativity, and technical skills, she thoughtfully selected scenes, showcasing her growth in visual storytelling. The project refined her techniques and allowed her to experiment with traditional art forms.

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