Friday, April 6, 2018

Japanese Style Prom Decorations

Last night was prom at my school! This year's prom theme, as decided by the seniors, was "A Night in the Land of the Rising Sun."  That worked great for me because I lived in Japan for a  year and a half and love all things Japanese.  And since all the Japanese people I've met,  love it when geigin (outsiders or foreigners) celebrate their culture, I could share all of their amazing aesthetics without fear of causing offense. I wanted to transform our school cafeteria for as little as possible, and so I spent $100 on paper lanterns and a handful of koi fish wind socks, and pieced everything else together with whatever I could find lying around.

I started by teaching students to make origami cranes. I spray painted eight #10 cans that had been sitting in my room for a year. Then I spray painted branches silver.  I wrapped the bottoms of the branches with newspaper and stuffed it into the bottom of the can, filling the top half with small landscaping rocks to hold everything in place. Each set of branches received 20-25 colorful paper cranes (160-180 total) for dazzling centerpieces.

For a fun photo op, I painted a samurai and a parasol holding geisha infant of a background of bamboo and the kanji characters for "Nihon" (Japan). The heads were cut out for prom goers to peek through.

I used the back of an old photo backdrop to paint another scene:  Mount Fuji with a footbridge, stone lantern, and rock garden, during cherry blossom season.  Our town is home to the larges number of cherry blossom trees in the world, but they all came from Japan and so there's a special connection to that country for us.

This photo back drop gives students (and teachers) a chance to use the photo props I made from craft foam and wire.  The foam was so thin, that I cut out two hair shapes, and hot glued a wire in between the two. This allowed me to bend it to conform to the shape of the head.

When each senior and their escort were announced then entered through a torii, the iconic red gate that often sits outside Japanese cities and shrines. This had been a 4'X8' piece of scrap wood that was cut into strips, and a kind-hearted maintenance man (thanks James) helped me figure out how to get to to be a free standing entrance.

3 8'X8' PVC pipe squares were wrapped in tulle and icicle lights, creating a 24 foot wall, which divided the dance floor from the eating area.

Garlands of large (12" X 18") and small paper (4" X 5") Japanese flags, were an inexpensive, easy way to make a visual impact.

And paper lanterns and fans hung from light fixtures, reinforcing the colors of the flag and creating visual unity.

Some 8' high discarded wood, and a couple of hinges was painted to make a faux rice paper wall.  by having this next to the 8' pagoda painting we did for the spring concert last year, there were places to take length pictures to show off their gowns and fancy shoes.

My daughter and husband came to the dance because they know how hard I've worked on this the last few months, and they're really supportive. One of my students (who didn't come to the prom) suggested that it wasn't worth the effort considering that "we're blind." But I had several students approach me and thank me for caring enough to try to make their night special.

Our prom even made the news. You can see the clip here:

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