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  • Writer's pictureTomas Ballada

Japanese-Brazilian Academic and Cultural Exchange Sessions

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

Connecting people and cultures in the heart of Tokyo

On the 29th of November, we had the immense pleasure of organizing academic and cultural exchange event, in conjunction with the Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo, where the event was also taking place. Another organizing party involved was also Japanese Table Sado Association, where "Sado" (茶道) refers to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The start was at 14:00, however, various participants and guests started gathering at the Embassy from around 13:30, carrying on vital preparations or enjoying the building and its surroundings, located in a very quiet and neat area not far from Omote Sando.

The Embassy building is both impressive and cheerful

The event started a few minutes past 14:00, with a greeting from Mr Leandro Napolitano, head of the Cooperation Education Section of the Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo. Mr Napolitano talked about the importance of the cultural exchange, dissemination of various ideas and furthering of mutual cooperation and understanding, for which one venue is the traditional culture that both countries have plentiful of. In short order the very first presentation begun, where Nagano Chikuken-sensei, who is the head teacher at Tokyo Calligraphy Education Association as well professor emeritus at the Tokyo Gakugei University delivered an extremely entertaining calligraphy-centred lecture. The talk was mainly an introduction to the evolution of written Japanese, and different forms of characters that have steadily taken the form that is used today, as well as how this has shaped Japanese calligraphy as we know it today.

Opening words by Mr. Leandro Napolitano of the Embassy

Nagano Chikuken-sensei`s presentation

Next two presentations were every bit as fascinating as the preceding one. First, Kanbayashi Hiroko-sensei of Japanese Table Sado Association walked the audience through the incredibly rich history of the tea ceremony, starting with its roots and finishing with various forms of utensils employed and etiquette observed to this day. The next on the programme was a brief intermission, which allowed the visitors to meet with each other and with the participants and engage in networking. At the same time, it was possible to enjoy a martial arts-centred exhibition, one that is available at the Embassy until the end of December.

Kanbayashi Hiroko-sensei explaining the intricacies of the world of tea ceremony

The martial arts-themed exhibition that can be enjoyed at the Embassy

Next and last of the presentations was by professor Eliseu Pichitelli of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, one that dived into the various details regarding Brazil and its culture, putting emphasis on its diverse nature, as a country where different cultures and lifestyles meet, and that is not just a sum of its stereotypes, such as samba or festival in Rio. A brief Q&A session ensued, where the guests could interact with the presenters, asking them questions related to their respective fields of expertise.

Professor Pichitelli`s presentation explaining less known facts about Brazil

The very last (although hardly the least important) part of the programme were the workshops - one of calligraphy and one of the tea ceremony. The both ran simultaneously for about 45 minutes, and then the groups would switch places (which means there were 4 workshops in total, two of each). There the guests could experience Japanese calligraphy and tea ceremony under the guidance of Nagano-sensei and Kanbayashi-sensei, regardless of their level or experience with those particular disciplines. Those who participated in the calligraphy workshop were first introduced into the basics of handling the most cardinal utensils as well as the elementary calligraphy techniques. Both workshops were translated into English by Mr Tomas Ballada of Tokyo Calligraphy Education Association, who also the responsible party present.

In the next part of the workshop the guests had the opportunity to ask Nagano-sensei to write a particular character (which they could also take back home) and finally, they could then proceed to write Japanese characters (be it kanji or kana) themselves.

Nagano-sensei explaining basic principles of Japanese calligraphy using the character for "the heavens"

In the tea ceremony workshop the guests were seated around the table, where they would first listen to the elementary etiquette of the tea ceremony and then enjoy Kanbayashi-sensei`s exquisite rendition of the table sado otemae (お手前 - a word used to describe the actual tea ceremony session, a tea-serving), being able to eat traditional sweets and drink matcha (powder green tea) prepared by Kanbayashi-sensei. The very last part of the experience comprised of the guests trying out their hand at whisking their own bowl of matcha, using a chasen (bamboo whisk).

Kanbayashi-sensei in the middle of the table sado otemae

The event culminated with guests taking their calligraphy papers home, however not before a group photo was taken. Judging from the level of engagement and enthusiasm of all the parties involved, the event could be branded as successful, especially in bringing together people of various cultural and social backgrounds and engaging them in an intercultural dialogue, which hopefully enriched their personal lives and experiences as well.

We would like to thank all the participants and guests, as well as the three main organising bodies, namely Tokyo Calligraphy Education Association, Japanese Table Sado Association and the Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo. Special thanks to Mr Fujita Mario of the Embassy who acted as the Japanese-Portuguese-Japanese interpreter during the presentations and Ms Saito, also from the Embassy, for her tireless efforts and help with the organisation.

Group photo closing the event

Group photo closing the event

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