SALTILLO – Saltillo Elementary School teachers and students transformed their hallways into a space fit to enjoy a traditional Japanese meal Friday afternoon to celebrate the end of their Japanese culture unit.

Students worked on the unit for several weeks during which they learned about Japanese history and culture.

According to Teresa Thomas, fourth-grade teacher at Saltillo, teachers chose Friday for the activity because May 5 is Children’s Day in Japan, a national holiday when families celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children.

Students sat on the floor to eat, first using chopsticks for their Hibachi chicken and rice and then finishing the meal with a cup of hot green tea. The food and tea was donated by Mt. Fuji restaurant.

Six classes, about 138 students total, participated in the activity.

“We’ve been practicing with our chopsticks and practicing Japanese customs for eating politely, because those are very important,” Thomas said. “They are excited to be having our feast today.”

Owen Austin, Saltillo fourth-grader, said his class watched videos of Japanese mealtime etiquette, and he was surprised by the difference between meals in Japan and meals in the United States.

“We’re trying to it like they do,” Austin said, scooping his rice up with a pair of chopsticks.

Omarion Agnew may have struggled with using his chopsticks Friday afternoon, but he thoroughly enjoyed his Japanese meal.

“It’s heavenly,” Agnew, a fourth-grader at Saltillo, said.

Leading up to Friday’s Japanese meal, students learned how to write their names in Japanese characters and how to say their names in Japanese. Throughout the unit, students also learned about Japan’s geography and how to make paper cranes through the Japanese paper art form of origami.

They studied the bombings of Pearl Harbor and of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the effects of those events as well.

Fourth-grader Kaytlyn Robertson said she was most interested in learning about Japanese customs.

“I like learning about how they eat different foods and eat on the floor and take their shoes off,” Robertson said. “I thought that was cool.”

Robertson also enjoyed trying to write and pronounce her name in Japanese.

“It was pretty easy (to write), but it was hard to pronounce,” Robertson said.

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