Seeing potential beyond language acquisition in the LAC space, a LAC staff member organized “O-Chat Time”.
Typically, the Language Acquisition Center at iCLA is a place for students to do as the name suggests – acquire language. Component LAC sessions of the English for Academic Excellence (EAE) Program take place there, so EAE students visit for their classes. Any iCLA student can visit LAC to study Japanese or English, take out books, or use the multimedia resources in the Reading Center or Language Media Center.
Seeing potential beyond language acquisition in the LAC space, LAC staff member Fukutome-sensei started “O-Chat Time”. The O-Chat Time name is a catchy portmanteau of English and Japanese – combining the words “Ocha”, which means tea in Japanese, and “Chat” to mean “have a chat over a cup of tea”. Over the 2023 Spring Semester, Fukutome-sensei has organized a series of O-Chat Time workshop events at LAC. On top of being a place where students can hone their language skills, during O-Chat Time, it also becomes a place for international exchange and experiencing culture.
The first O-Chat Time of the Spring Semester was the Flower Arrangement Workshop. Local florist and shop owner of Hana Uta was invited to teach students western and Japanese-style flower arrangements. Students could choose their favored style and make their own unique arrangement with the fresh flowers. After the workshop, students could take their works and enjoy them at home.
In the next O-Chat Time, students had the opportunity to learn how to make Japanese confections or wagashi from the 7th generation owner of beloved local sweets shop Shourinken, which has been in operation since 1832. Students learned what is wagashi and then made Nerikiri wagashi, which is made by kneading and mixing ingredients like white bean jam and rice flour, and then shaping it. Nerikiri wagashi is typically shaped with seasonal imagery in mind. To celebrate Tanabata, students made stunning pastel-colored wagashi topped with stars and bamboo.
Tea plays a central role in these special occasions in LAC. In the final O-Chat Time of the semester, students who have been practicing tea ceremony with Fukutome-sensei donned yukata and kimono and performed tea ceremony for event guests. A make-shift traditional Japanese room was also set up in the Reading Center for the occasion.
The O-Chat Time events teach students about Japanese traditional culture in a hands-on way. By collaborating with local businesses for the events, students also learn about the community.
We are planning a win-win event that will be a meaningful experience for everyone. By involving the local community and the people around us, students can experience Japanese hospitality. We also hope that students who choose Japan as their study abroad destination will be able to experience the depth of Japanese culture, even if only a little.Fukutome
Culture is also incorporated into the Component LAC sessions taught by Fukutome-sensei. iCLA staff member Ekaterina, who is also a licensed flower arrangement instructor, was invited to teach EAE students about flower arrangement and arranging flowers in the style of Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Although the theme of the workshop was the Japanese art of flower arrangement, it was completely conducted in English so students of the EAE Program could practice their language skills, but also learn about how to communicate Japanese culture and arts in English. In another session, EAE students also had the opportunity to make wagashi with the 7th generation owner of Shourinken.
Fukutome-sensei also urged EAE students to share the tea culture of their home as part of the Component LAC session. A student from China demonstrated Chinese tea ceremony and served savory Chinese tea eggs. On another occasion, a student from Shizuoka Prefecture demonstrated the delicious method of making Japanese green tea and presented about the industry of green tea in Shizuoka.
Students can look forward to future O-Chat Time events which are informed through UNIPA and posters around the building.