November 26, 2013

Kamishibaing with Young Learners in Japan!

Remember I told you that I was going on a kamishibai adventure? 

I did and here I have here the great pleasure to share with you my experience kamishibaing with children in Japan.  If you are new to kamishibai, I'd like to invite you to first read my previous post  in which I recall how I got in contact with this lovely ancient art. 

My kamishibai experience started on a rainy morning at Junkudo, a large bookstore in Osaka. I arrived before it opened, waited a little bit and was the very first person to enter it. I looked around, didn't see any kamishibai,  and then asked one of the employees in my basic Japanese.  Would they have them? Yes, they did! You can not imagine my pleasure when the young lady showed the shelves in the picture with more than 200 stories. the stories. They were just in front of me, but in the other side. I sat on the floor and started exploring all of them. 

After a good 50 minutes sitting on the floor, I finally made me mind and chose 5 stories. I choose stories that can be told to children from 1 to 7 years old, specially thinking about the sessions I was soon going to have in Gifu. I wish I could have chosen more, but not only I had the cost but also their weight as I was backpacking. I also got the kamishibai box, which is really heavy!

I also bought the kamishibai box and hyoshigi. Lewis Carroll said that telling a story is giving a present of love. If we consider the kamishibai stories the gifts, then the kamishibai box is a fantastic and mysterious wrapping. Just by taking it out, children are already curious and excited for what is about to come. But before touching opening the three magic doors, I clack the hyoshigi three times as a way of announcing that we are entering fantasy world, and chant "story, story, story".

After a couple of times doing it, I can guarantee you that the audience is with you and ready to enjoy this unique art. Another trick is really ritualizing the way in which the story ends with 3 words said one at a time, when the little doors are being closed. Kamishibai is pure magic!

Kamishibai stories usually have 8,12, 16, or even 24 picture cards. The more the cards, the older is the intended audience. Here below I share the froggy story that I bought. I still need some help to figure out the real story as I can not read Japanese. Help me please if you know it!

Well, I was then ready to start! My first two sessions were at at Hanazono Kita and Hanazono kindergartens in Gifu. And in a mega way as I had 300 kids in each session. Yes, you read it right, 300 kids between 3 and 5 years old. Each session lasted 30 minutes and I alternated kamishibai stories with Buddy sketches. I even had a wireless microphone. My challenge was to make the stories linguistically accessible to all the children and to do so I used greetings, counting until 3, and lots of commands. I was impressed with the amount of English they knew and happy to say that the kamishibai telling was a success! 

Here I am telling one story in which characters come out of shapes. The ghost cries because it does not have friends and then the girl and robot come to play with it in the end. A very sweet story! 

Here I have prepared a surprise for Buddy. He doesn't know that we have a really big cake for him! The children really enjoyed the suspense and the interactions in which Buddy did not know where the cake was! Then, as you can imagine, Buddy ate it all!

After this amazing experience at Hanazono,  I told stories at almost all the schools I visited.  Small groups, big groups, really young, almost teenagers, only children, children with their parents. You name it! 

One experience in particular that was very special was when Lisa at Oshaberi invited me to teach her class of 1-year old students, who come to class together with their moms. That was my very first experience telling kamishibai stories to such young children and I wasn't sure how much I would be able to get their attention and tell them the story. You know what? Children hooked up and really enjoyed it!  Here in the picture you can see students accepting my invitation to try the cake. Some of them even said one or two words.  I am still excited about having had this marvellous moment with these very very young learners! 

I wasn't able to meet a real kamishibaiman this time and my search continues.
Next year I will certainly invest more in getting to know at least one of these amazing artists.
This possible dream encounter energizes me even more to continue my Japanese studies!

What about you?

Do you see yourself telling stories with kamishibai?
Have you ever heard a kamishibaiman?

Send you a big kamishibai-hug!


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Thank you! 


  1. Wowowow... I guess you enjoyed as much I did while reading!!! Thanks for such a lovely narrative of your experience! I hope I can do the same one day!!
    Smiles from Argentina, Maria :)

  2. Hey Maria!

    I certainly enjoyed living and re-living this precious time with these lovely children.
    Even more when this experience also becomes ours!

    I'm 100% sure you already enchant your students with your Egyptian stories...

    Smiles back!

    Juan :)


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