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Fresno Betsuin Launches New Youth Program


FYI: Registration for the 2024 summer session, July 8-19 (weekdays only), has already begun for the Fresno Kodomo Center at the Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple.  If you have a youngster between the ages of 4 and 5 and would like to register or would like more information about the program, please contact Alene Hayashi at amhayashi@sbcglobal.net or visit the website at fresnobuddhisttemple.org 


 

The Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple introduced a new Japanese cultural program for pre-kindergarten children in the summer of 2023 under the guidance of Rev. Kazuaki Nakata and coordinator Alene Hayashi. 


The primary goal of the Fresno Kodomo Center is to introduce Japanese culture and way of life through pre-K activities promoting group harmony, leadership skills, rotating responsibilities, conservation of resources, respect for elders, and cooperative effort to children of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds. The program was held July 10-21, 2023.


With these goals in mind, the children engaged in many activities, including: learning to meditate and become “Meditation Masters; Japanese language skills through morning greetings; singing; Obon dancing; taiko; and cooperation and leadership skills during our rotating leadership game as well as at playtime. 


It was also endearing to hear the children using “Keigo,” or respectful language, with our team of adult and student volunteers. 


A few highlights during the two-week program included a song written by Fresno Betsuin Chairperson Gordon Ah Tye titled “Go Kodomo!” 


It was a fun and upbeat song that taught counting in Japanese and the children loved it. They also played along with the Fresno Gumyo Taiko group on their self-made drums, which was a hit at the celebration dinner at the end of the program. 


However, I think the children would say their most favorite part of each morning was during snack time. Their conversations and the thrill of opening their obento boxes to see what their loved ones packed for them to eat was a fun moment shared by everyone. 


One of our committee members was Amy Aoki, parent to student volunteer Ariana and pre-K student Max. She explained why she wanted to get her children involved with the Fresno Kodomo Center.


“I do not want my children to lose their heritage,” Aoki said. “The United States was built by immigrants, a melting pot for different races and cultures. Although there is much diversity here, minorities can get lost in the mix. Outwardly, I am part of the ‘majority,’ European descent (aka white) brought up in a Christian household. 


Aoki said that after taking a DNA text in her 30s, she discovered she was 25% Jewish. 


“I never would have guessed that my grandfather was 100% Jewish,” she said. “He had lost all of his Jewish cultural and religious background by the time I knew him. His culture had been melted away, and now it is forgotten. 


“My children may be 100% American, but they are also 50% Japanese,” Aoki continued. “I am so glad that programs like the Fresno Kodomo Center reinforce Japanese culture that might otherwise be lost to future generations. When my children look in the mirror, I want them to be proud of their culture. I want their culture to be so ingrained that when the outside world pushes into their lives, they are secure enough to say, ‘I am Japanese American. This is my amazing culture.’“ 


There are many people to thank within our own Fresno and Central Valley Sangha.  Without them, we could not have had such a successful start of the Fresno Kodomo Center.  


Although we cannot thank all the people in this article, we would like to highlight Albert Fujitsubo, who reached out to the BCA Music Committee and asked Donna Sasaki for her arrangement of our Kodomo Center theme song, “Kari Kari Watare.”  


Registration for the 2024 summer session, July 8-19 (weekdays only) has already begun. If you have a youngster between the ages of 4 and 5 and would like to register or would like more information about our program, please contact Alene Hayashi at amhayashi@sbcglobal.net or visit our website at fresnobuddhisttemple.org 


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