Event sheds light on Japanese culture

By Ariel Steinsaltz
Staff Writer

Three people wearing gis stood by a mat on the floor. One of them stepped on to the mat, and another charged at them. The person on the mat promptly grabbed the person charging, flipped them, and slammed them onto the mat.

Festival-goers play jon ken pon, Japanese for rock, paper, scissors. (Miguel Gonzalez / News Editor)

On Nov. 14, in the Brower Student Center Room 101, students studying Japanese and members of various clubs came together to host Bunkasai, a Japanese Cultural Festival that was open to students and faculty.

According to Holly Didi-Ogren, the Japanese program director at the College, students from various Japanese classes helped prepare for the event. They were in charge of the food, decorations and other details that helped spread the word of the event and make it a success.

In addition, as a project, small groups each presented on a topic throughout the night. Clubs on campus, such as Aikido and The Society for Creative Endeavors (an anime club), were invited to give presentations as well.

Some of the presentations throughout the night included a quiz on the Okinawa region of Japan, a tongue-twister tournament, a martial arts demonstration by Aikido and a presentation on Kabuki, a type of Japanese theater, that gave guests at the event the opportunity to have their faces painted. Students attending the event also had room to get creative. They could visit a station at the event where they could decorate little birds called kotori.

In addition to the interactive aspects of the event, there were also presentations and performances for people to view.

One of the presentations was a kami-shibai, a traditional form of picture storytelling mostly used for children’s entertainment. The particular story presented at the event was based on Star Wars.

Nick Waszkiewicz, a senior computer science major was one of the people behind the project. He worked hard to help bring the story to life.

“I wanted to create a bridge between the Western and Eastern cultures,” he said. “I felt that Star Wars would be a very good way to do that.”

Didi-Ogren said that Bunkasai, which began in 2011, was created when the College had a house where students who were studying Japanese all lived together. Though the house no longer exists, the program has remained.

“It’s a chance to bring all the students studying Japanese together,” she said. “It’s a chance to…bring more awareness of Japanese language and culture into the community.”

Meaghanne McBride, a junior music and Japanese double major who is taking Japanese 202, presented on Taiko, a type of Japanese drumming. She said that she developed an interest in Japanese culture from watching anime as a child.

The event coordinators served traditional Japanese foods at the event. There were chestnuts, rice crackers and a type of sushi called Inarizushi, made with dried tofu and seasonings. There were also candies, mainly Hi-Chew and Pocky, brands that Didi-Ogren said were more well-known in the U.S. There were rice bowls called Onigiri, which were wrapped in seaweed at the bottom. Some of them had pickled plums inside, while others had seasonings around the edges.

Even some alumni came back for the event. James Hebditch (’18), studied interactive multimedia. He explained that he had been part of a Japanese class last year and that he was eager to visit and be around the sense of community and camaraderie among the students involved.

“I thought it would be cool to come back, visit people, see how things have changed,” he said.

Tom Daley, a junior criminology major, was there as part of The Society for Creative Endeavors to do a presentation on origami anime characters.

“I’m hoping to learn a lot about Japanese culture,” he said, “it’s a very beautiful culture, and I hope to have a better understanding of the art.”

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