I started teaching in front of approximately 50 inmates, the largest group that I've ever taught. I had been so nervous to do this, but for some reason I was not scared at all, once I was there. I first asked my usual question: "What have you made in origami?," as an ice breaker and started conversing with them. It was like talking with any adult males with good manners. Perhaps, I would've forgotten about the fact that they were criminals, if they weren't in their blue uniforms.
I showed them some photos of my artwork, as well as some world famous origami artists on the computer. Jumping from my artwork photos to some profound origami artists' was like skipping from kindergarten all the way to graduate school. Needless to say, they were impressed to see the artworks of Satoshi Kamiya and Eric Joisel.
After the presentation I did the demonstration of paper crane, the most known origami model of all. Some asked if I would teach them how to make paper crane, but at the time I thought it would take too long to teach it to a group of that size. Besides, I had a few other models in mind so I stuck to what I had planned.
1)Heart, 2)Box, 3)Sail boat, and 4)Tato (Japanese money wrap) are the four models that I had planned and taught. I thought that the heart can also be given away as a gift to their visitor, or mailed off to a loved one. This box model is be made out of any rectangular paper and quite practical. The sail boat model is a seasonally appropriate, good looking display piece. The tato, like the box, is another practical model. I thought those were pretty good choices, since they were all very simple, practical, and/or visually pleasing.
No, I did not teach how to make origami guns, knives, hand saws or keys to the inmates, that would not have been appropriate!
I showed how to fold on a big sheet of paper and checked on everyone at each step, like I always do. Thanks to Kurumi-san who went around to check on the group along with me, everything went smooth. Everyone was able to finish folding each model, without getting too frustrated. There were moments where I witnessed people in excitements, who were so happy and proud to see the finished products. It was like their inner children emerged. I can totally relate to the excitements that they experienced, and that is exactly why I love what I do: teach origami.
The two hours of origami session passed so fast. As we left, many club members came to shake our hands and thanked us profusely for coming to teach. From beginning to the end, everyone was so welcoming, polite, and appreciative of our visit. I guess that it is not every day that they have visitors, or that they have a chance to learn something new.
Kurumi and I were escorted all the way back to the front door where we entered with an officer, and of course, there were just as much security to exit as it was to enter, but finally we got out. After we exited the building, we took some photos in front of the prison building: a typical Japanese tourist thing to do. Then we talked about how fun and interesting the whole experience was, and were very happy to have done what we did. We even said to each other that we would love to come back to teach there again, which, by the way, will most likely be arranged some time next year, as it was talked about in e-mail exchange with the club afterwards.
Does it sound shallow to say that I feel like my experience has widened my perspective? But it has. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to have arrived, and happy that I decided to do it. I realized that the people that I met in the prison are just people like us, rather than bad people. They just made bad choices. They cannot undo the bad things that they've done in the past, but they can try to eclaim to be a good, productive part of society. And we could help reclaim them. I will be back there to teach.
Thank you for reading all these long posts.