College brings traditional Japanese festival to campus

By Alexander Edelson

Under a canopy of paper-m?ché flowers, students from professor Holly Ogren’s Japanese classes gathered in Trenton Hall Room 123 to celebrate Bunkasai, a Japanese cultural festival on Nov. 15.

While Bunkasai may not be commonly known in America, it’s a staple of Japanese culture. In Japan, students have specific Bunkasai days at school where they celebrate creativity and artistic achievements and showcase their efforts for the community.

This was reflected in the vibrant decorations that adorned the room. Python-like chains of rainbow-colored construction paper and beautiful floral arrangements covered the walls. Smaller origami shapes and animals were sprawled about on every table.

Authentic Japanese foods, such as udon noodles, Pocky and Happy Panda, were available for guests and presenters to enjoy.

In her opening remarks, Ogren broke down the meaning of Bunkasai to inform guests on what they were celebrating.

“‘Bunka’ means ‘culture’ and ‘Si’ means ‘a festival,’” Ogren said. “In Japan in the fall, all the schools have a big celebration of cultural works their students have done in the school. They will have art projects, plays and different kind of demonstrations.”

Inspired by this Japanese tradition, Ogren aimed to take the idea of Bunkasai and replicate her own version for students.

Alexandra Rizzo, a freshman international studies major in Ogren’s class, helped decorate and set up the festival.

Students experience Japanese culture at the Bunkasai-themed event. (Randell Carrido / Staff Photographer)

“We were put on different committees like publicity and decorating,” Rizzo said. “I chose decorating because I love doing arts and crafts.”

The students’ efforts were displayed throughout the room, which was adorned with various Japanese decorations, adding to the authentic feeling of the event.

Each committee was responsible for different aspects of the evening. The publicity committee was composed of students who worked to spread the word about Bunkasai, in addition to preparing a presentation on one of Japan’s eight regions.

“In our other groups, we made a brochure and a presentation about our region,” Rizzo said. “Mine was Kushu, so I did the Nagasaki Lantern Festival.”

Rizzo’s presentation highlighted the importance of the annual Nagasaki Lantern Festival that occurs in January to celebrate the Japanese New Year.

In addition to providing images, videos and background information on the festival, attendees had the opportunity to build their own Nagasaki lanterns.

Every presentation featured an interactive component. Presentations included a live karate demonstration, Udon noodle tasting and paper boat sailing.

One of the most exciting presentations of the night was centered on Japanese pop music that ended with a chance to learn the updated choreography to the Japanese Olympic song, “Tokyo Gorin Ondo 2020.”

Annette Giacobbe, a junior international studies major, orchestrated the presentation.

“I have background information of knowing about Korean idols in Japan,” Giacobbe said. “I know a lot of people don’t know Korean idols singing original songs in Japanese so I wanted to share that with other people.”

Giacobbe believed it was important to introduce Americans to the new song.

In 2020, Japan will host the Summer Olympics and have updated the classic dance to celebrate the event.

“With the Olympics coming up, I think it’s important that people know about it,” Giacobbe said.

When the international sports competition airs in 2020, viewers will be able to see “Tokyo Gorin Ondo 2020” at the opening ceremony. Those in attendance of Bunkasai will be able to participate in real time.

Bunkasai brought Japanese tradition to the College and gave students a taste of the culture in an evening filled with laughter, friends and celebration.

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