Iwami Yougou Gakkou is a Special Needs School in Ohnan-cho, just South of Kawamoto. I visit Iwami only once each month, and every time I do I am overcome with awe at the quality of the education that the students receive there. The student to teacher ratio is incredibly low – one of the classes I visit has three teachers and two students… There is also an abundance of cultural activities that take place on a weekly rotation. After morning classes and lunch, the remainder of the day is spent out of the classroom. Depending on the day, students may choose between basketball, soccer, frisbee, carpentry, pottery, sewing, judo, gymnastics or a variety of other activities.
I was eager to partake in the Iwami wood-working class (called moko in Japanese) , but was unable to last year because my schedule never allowed for a special visit to the school. This year, however, I’ve made a concerted effort to visit Iwami more often than my contract calls for. My first unscheduled visit to Iwami occurred last week. I arrived on Thursday and immediately joined the woodworking class. There were about 15 students in the shop – building everything from drumsticks to park benches. The students were all wearing matching blue work jackets and caps with Ohnan-cho’s motto embroidered onto them:
I began class by surveying the workshop, asking the Japanese name for many of the tools and watching others use them. The hand tools used in Iwami Woodcraft are:
I eventually joined another student in constructing hinoki (cypress) boxes. I was dissapointed to discover that the first step in building the boxes was glueing and power-drilling the sides into place. We did, however, utilize the saws and planer for covering the screw heads and smoothing out the sides. Over the course of three hours we completed two and a half boxes.
All of the Iwami Woodcraft products are either used at the school, given away, or sold at school festivals.
I hope to make my own set of bachi (taiko drumsticks) during my next visit to the moko class. I only wish the workshop was non-electric…