Nevertheless, they were as amazed as I was one year when a professor from the U-M department of Asian languages and cultures took a brush as big as a mop, dipped it in a giant pot of black ink, and with a loud “Hai!” slammed the brush onto a sheet of paper larger than she, and in one fluid stroke, both hands on the brush, wrote one large word that you understood instantly. It was calligraphy as performance art.
At the normal-size calligraphy station, where you can try writing good wishes for the New Year with a regulation brush, eight-year-old Niu Niu calmly writes her name in kanji and helps the other people who are trying it for the first time. Little Brother patiently paints large black blobs that completely fill his paper—“Transformers.”
The wooden clack-clack of the kamishibai storyteller’s call brings four-year-old Little Brother running to hear the story of the Mighty Momotaro in both Japanese and English, each scene’s colorful pictures displayed in a wooden stagelike frame. I love the lyrical lilt of the story in Japanese, trying to pick out the few Japanese words that I know.
Little Brother is puzzled, asking, “How come I don’t understand what she is saying?”