Japanese exhibit opens at Discovery Station at Hagerstown

February 03, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Sukey Rankin demonstrates a Japanese origami wrestling game that is part of the Tomodachi exhibit at Discovery Station in Hagerstown. Rankin will present a Saturday Plus program of Japanese cultural activities at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5
By Joe Crocetta/Staff photographer

Ever wonder what flip-flops, sushi rolls and Nintendo have in common?

A hint: The answer isn't "Things you can buy at the mall."

These everyday items have origins in Japan and will be part of "Tomodachi," the newest exhibit at Discovery Station at Hagerstown.

"Tomodachi," which means "friend" in Japanese, opens today at the downtown children's museum and will be on view for 20 months.

On Saturday, Feb. 5, kids can try origami and create kanji characters. They'll have a chance to walk in Japanese clogs, ring a temple bell and experience other aspects of Japanese culture. They'll learn also about the origins of things that are mainstays of American youth culture — like those flip-flops.

"The Japanese were the originators of flip-flops. They're called — zori,'" said Sukey Rankin, one of the exhibit's coordinators. Rankin leads Japanese culture workshops at Washington County Free Library and helped put together a prior Japanese-themed kid-centric exhibit at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

For "Tomodachi," Rankin worked with Ayako Shiga, who teaches Japanese at Boonsboro High School, and Japanese master calligrapher Satomi Pirrone.

Pirrone, 41, started calligraphy when she was a 4-year-old girl living in Japan. A classically trained opera singer, Pirrone came to the United States in 1996 to attend school at Shenandoah University in Virginia. She said she reconnected with her artistic side while living in New York City, where she taught special education at a public middle school.

Pirrone was living in Manhattan when the towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. She said there's something about the deceptively simple lines of black ink on paper that can provide catharsis.

"It's self control, like meditating, like prayer," Pirrone said.

She moved to Hagerstown in 2005.

Shiga said the exhibit will give local kids a peak into the lives of Japanese kids. Her students will also perform during a ribbon-cutting ceremony today and have created instructional music videos for teaching kids how to count in Japanese and how to say left and right — "hidari" and "migi."

In the end, she said it's about bringing people together, learning what they might have in common with kids who live more than halfway around the globe.

"Especially for little children," Shiga said.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Tomodachi," an interactive exhibit about Japanese culture

WHEN: Exhibit opens today with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. The exhibit will be on view for at least a year.

WHERE: Discovery Station at Hagerstown, 101 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Free with paid museum admission. $7, adults; $6, children 4 to 17; $5, adults in the military and for those older than 55; free admission for children younger than 4.

MORE: Sukey Rankin will present a Saturday Plus program of Japanese cultural activities, 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5.

CONTACT: The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with seasonal hours from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays through April. Call Discovery Station at 301-790-0076 or go to

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