Japanese school for Brazilians reopens in Aisho

Santana Gakuen (サンタナ学園) in Aisho is a school catering to Brazilian children. However, due to the children’s parents losing their factory jobs in Shiga due to the recession, the kids could no longer afford the tuition. The school’s enrollment of over 100 shrank to 67 by last autumn, and 40 of them were unable to pay the tuition. The school could no longer pay the Japanese teacher and so the school was closed in early 2009.

Coming to the rescue was Okuda Yuko (奥田祐子), an English teacher who met the school principal (Tanaka Kenko 中田ケンコ校長) and offered to teach Japanese to the kids as a volunteer. So the school reopened on June 11, 2009 after a six-month closure.

Ms. Okuda currently teaches at the school two or three times a week, mainly to kids in grades 1 to 4, much to the relief of the school’s principal. The children are eager to learn Japanese.

Okuda-san is also involved in the establishment of Aisho’s international association (愛荘国際交流協会設立準備会) to be formed later this year. (She’s the coordinator.) She hopes to expand Aisho’s international programs to include art, flower arranging, and cooking.

I wish her and her associates the best for the school and international association.

Kongorinji temple installs new Mandala

Kongorinji Hondo Hall (National Treasure)

The new Mandala is in this Kongorinji Hondo Hall (National Treasure).

Kongorinji temple (金剛輪寺), one of the Koto Sanzan temple trio of Tendai Buddhist temples (National Treasures) in Aisho, eastern Shiga, lost its precious Mandala about 140 years ago during the Meiji Era (it is now owned by Nezu Art Museum in Tokyo and designated as an Important Cultural Property). They tried to get it back from the museum but to no avail.

So in April 2005, they set out to create a duplicate Mandala and it was recently completed after four years of painstaking art work. A service was held on May 10, 2009 at the temple to transfer a spirit to the Mandala and to install it in the temple. The service was officiated by the 91-year-old Tendai Zasu abbot (the sect’s top priest) as well. The Mandala, called Kongokai Hachiju-isson Mandala (金剛界八十一尊曼荼羅), is now open for public viewing in the temple’s Hondo hall until May 31, 2009. Public viewings of the Mandala will be held only once a year.

Buddhist art lovers will marvel at the Mandala’s depiction of 81 buddhas in the cosmos, with natural pigments brought in from China. Kamakura-Era techniques for the pigments and silk were used to create the 2-meter square painting on silk. The silk came from silkworms (in Ehime Pref. 愛媛県西予市) still creating the old type of silk used during the Kamakura Period. The pigments were also from crushed natural minerals like cinnabar for red, azurite for blue, and malachite for green. The Mandala cost about 30 million yen to make, made possible through the donations of almost 2,000 people.

*The temple is accessible by bus on weekdays from JR Inae Station on the Biwako/Tokaido Line. Buses leave at 9:17, 11:32, and 15:00. Buses do not run on weekends. Google Map


Kongorinji Web site: http://kongourinji.jp/

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