'Top' students have a whirl of fun at Sasebo
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — More than pupils’ heads were spinning at Jack N. Darby Elementary School on Wednesday and Thursday.
During a visit by representatives of the Sasebo Tops Co., youngsters at Darby, at Sasebo Naval Base’s Hario Housing Village, learned how the unique wooden tops are made, painted and spun.
Tops made by the more than 100-year-old company are longtime mainstays among toys and keepsakes enjoyed by Sasebo residents.
“These tops are part of the culture here in Sasebo because this is the only place where tops of this shape are made in Japan,” said Yukiko Yamamoto, wife of factory owner Toshitaka Yamamoto.
Yukiko Yamamoto also brought along unpainted wooden kendama, a wooden toy produced by the company that features a ball on a string with four possible landing points on its base.
Pupils from kindergarten through the sixth grade participated in Wednesday’s demonstrations. Sixth- graders were asked to paint unadorned versions of the kendama toy.
“I think this toy will be kind of hard to learn, but it looks like fun,” said Isaiah Beltran, 10, a sixth-grader who helped paint the toys Wednesday in Gretta Keel’s art classroom.
“I painted mine to look just like a regular person, so it looks sort of like me,” he said. “I also learned about their culture and their games.”
Keel and Megumi Fukui, Darby’s host nation studies teacher, combined forces to teach elements of host nation culture and art to the school’s 220 students.
Keel said Department of Defense Dependents Schools require specific standards in curriculum for host nation studies and art instruction.
“This teaches them that this art is related to the artists’ lives and culture, as well as about themes in art native to Sasebo,” Keel said.
“Even the colors selected identify these tops as being from Sasebo Tops,” she said.