By Overtone Megumi
This Hidamari Club was formed in February 2010 by three mothers who wanted to do “child- friendly” activities. We wanted a Japanese only speaking environment for our children and a fun environment for mothers to do something that would keep us high-spirited. Then we started to present various seminars and workshops. We have made this gathering a fun place where everybody feels free to have a gathering, to learn and to socialize. Sometimes mothers with different skill sets are asked to give us a lesson on their specialties. We would bring along and take care of each other’s children.
Since we started the Hidamari Club, we have had many events including lectures, workshops and bazaars. These events usually stem from ideas contributed by both staff and participants. Participants are from various generations ranging from students in their twenties to individuals with children so the group has expanded beyond our initial target group. Some have been living in Toronto for many years after having immigrated here, others are only here temporarily, and still others have just come to the city. When we gather, participants enjoy each other’s company once they begin to talk and sometimes find out that they are actually from the same local neighbourhood in Japan.
Now I am writing this article as one of the staff, but originally I started as one of the participants in this club. Back then I was pregnant and while looking forward to having my baby, I was also nervous about delivering the baby in Toronto without my mother. At that time I heard about a singing group called “Utano-Kai” under the sponsorship of the Hidamari Club and I decided to join because it was open to everyone. I joined in hopes of meeting other Japanese mothers and also wanted my baby to listen to my singing. When I first joined, I remembered thinking, “Wow! I didn’t realize there were this many Japanese mothers in Toronto”. The babies who were participating in this singing group were so cute. I was given a warm welcome by the staff so it felt very comfortable and relaxed as I was singing. I got to learn Japanese songs that were arranged for more enjoyable singing. I still remember the moment when I felt, “I am not alone here!”. I also enjoyed having conversations with other participants after the singing. Since then I joined the club whenever they had an activity. I could not participate for a little while after my baby was born but then I returned to the club because I thought I might feel better meeting people than staying at home. At first I was so nervous about even taking the subway but I looked forward to meeting people and felt so excited about being able to learn something together with my child.
At Hidamari Club, we support each other by watching our children because there is no day-care system during the workshops. Workshops include easy yoga, salsa dancing, vegetarian cooking, slim down facial massage training, walking methods, sewing, knitting, craft making, creating Valentine’s Day cards, making miso and dumplings with eastern medicinal herbs, etc. While I work on something, one of the participants or a staff member would hold my son for me. I have met people from all different walks of life. When we gather, we have a chance to talk about parenting and empathize with one another’s experiences.
As I gained experience, I started hoping to become an organizer and host instead of just a participant in this club. Now here I am working as a staff member. I am engaged in the beauty industry so I host workshops related to beauty or health. There are workshops for how to dress in a Japanese Kimono, how to teach your child sex education, how to make miso using rice malt, unfiltered sake (Nigori) and even rice malt itself. All of these workshops are based on the concept of, “Let’s make something Japanese that is not easy to find here”. I love it. The instructors are particular about their specialties and they give us a lot of valuable knowledge. The registration fee is reasonable so it is a joy to be involved.
I would like to thank all of the staff who were around at the time of the inauguration of this club for making a place where we enjoy gathering. We would love to maintain this environment for people who come to meet people and have fun.
For further information about our local Toronto events and childcare, please check the website below.
We are currently looking for workshop facilitators as well.
By Overtone Megumi