Jugoya: The Night of the Full Moon

Templish is a volunteer hands-on learning program of Japanese culture for elementary school children.  The name is a play on “temple” and “English”, as activities are facilitated in English, by members of an over-800-year old temple, Chokyu-Ji. International students from NAIST regularly volunteer to engage with the children in fun activities, with a theme that changes every month.

Templish banner that greets its participants

Last September, the theme was jugoya (十五夜), the night of the full moon. Jugoya is the traditional custom of celebrating the autumn harvest, also observed by other Asian cultures. It is equivalent to the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and Vietnam, and chuseok, or Autumn Eve, in South Korea. It’s a celebration that involves eating round rice cakes, called dango (団子), displaying pampas grass, called susuki (ススキ), staring at the moon, and singing songs about a moon rabbit that pounds rice cakes, called mochi (餅). What’s not to love?

Kids freely roaming and playing around before the activity starts. It is also the time when the kids acquaint themselves with the volunteers.

For this round of Templish, more than 20 kids and 8 volunteers joined in. The activity usually starts with learning some English vocabulary relevant to the theme, such as moon, fox, bear, rabbit, and harvest.

Hide-san explaining the English vocabulary words

An engaging activity always follows after vocabulary. This time, the children were divided into four groups to recreate scenes from the legend of Jugoya.

A volunteer and a kid posing with their handmade fox prop

The students prepared the props, practiced their lines (in English) and performed in front of the volunteers and their fellow students.

Kids presenting their own version of the drama with props and some audio-visual display
Kids watching the volunteers perform the drama about Jugoya

As customary, the end of the activity was signaled by prayer and singing. The students and volunteers recited prayers with the resident monk in a separate, solemn room. Afterwards, Hide-san, the main organizer, plays the song Take Me Home, Country Roads on guitar, while everyone sings along gleefully and enthusiastically.

Parents waiting outside while Hide-san plays the guitar and the kids sing along

It was such an enjoyable ending to an amazing day at Templish. For anyone who wishes to be involved with Templish activities, this will level up your weekend afternoon! Come and join us in the next activity!

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