Connect with Japanese culture

Yoriko Gillard in a photo titled Hopes at Steveston. | Photo by Adela Chau

Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre is offering KIZUNA: Japanese Culture in English, a program that spans from May to July with varying themes, from language to culture, for everyone to participate in.

Leading the conversation of Japanese culture course at Nikkei’s cultural centre, instructor Yoriko Gillard shares what will happen during the workshops and talk about her cultural background. The course starts on May 9 and will focus on creativity. Various activities will be present to encourage participants to discuss cultural aspects of daily life activities in Japan. Everyone is invited, with or without any prior knowledge of Japanese culture or language.

“The May sessions are focused on creativity and I will use many Japanese creative practices, both traditional and contemporary, such as origami, paper making, painting, flower arranging and others to discuss what could be Japanese culture and look at it from different perspectives, environments, experiences, knowledge and heritage,” Gillard says.

Gillard is currently a Ph.D student in Language and Literacy Education at UBC and a faculty member at Capilano University and International House Vancouver teaching Japanese language. She is also an artist and poet researching Japanese culture, language pedagogy and human relationships based on a Japanese concept of kizuna, which translates to an affectionate and respectful, reciprocal relationship connecting everyone during times of hardship.

A passion for sharing

Gillard has been organizing community events to support earthquake survivors, social activists, educators and cultural professionals in B.C. communities for the past seven years.

“Each time I met with enthusiastic and warm-hearted community leaders and I wanted to learn more about these people who have been working so hard to serve our society outside academy,” says Gillard.

On coming to Vancouver to coordinate events, Gillard says that she is grateful to people of B.C. in regards to their help when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.

“I was not directly affected by the disaster but my heart was broken and B.C. communities showed great support for Japan. This moved me and brought up my spirit so I want to share how Japanese people in Japan also feel appreciative about the support they received from the world,” she says. “There are many amazing stories that reminded us to respect one another in Japan and showed the world how our kizuna brought us together.”

Although Gillard has offered many events including Japanese cultural context to collaborate with Japanese local Taiko groups, various artists, educators, community leaders, and students, this is her first time offering KIZUNA: Japanese Culture in English for anyone who wants to learn about Japanese culture.

“My reason for offering KIZUNA: Japanese Culture is to not only inform my knowledge, but also learn from my attendees,” explains Gillard.

Her past experiences in events brings Gillard pleasant memories.

“My experience of organizing events is always a memorable one. I love working with honest and hardworking people,” she says.

Interaction at the heart of workshops

Gillard often invites artists, poets, community leaders and academic scholars to her events and asks them to let participants interact with them.

“I believe poetry can touch many of our hearts in gentle and sincere ways and this tradition has been an important one in Japan,” she says.

Gillard’s main philosophy for coordinating events is promoting active interactions with her participants.

“There are so many ways I tried to interact with my participants, as that is my core reason to organize anything in community,” says Gillard.

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