North Texas Daily

Japanese festival celebrates unique culture

Japanese festival celebrates unique culture

Japanese festival celebrates unique culture
April 20
23:28 2015

Kayleigh Bywater / Staff Writer

Although Japanese culture can be seen as different from American culture, people all over the country study and partake in traditional Japanese pop culture, food and traditions.

The Japanese Culture Organization at UNT aims to interact with the campus community by sharing Japanese culture to help students and faculty better understand what it’s all about.

JCO president Cory Taylor said he wants people to understand Japan’s culture is not just anime or sushi.

“Americans know a lot about Western society because most of them obviously grew up here,” Taylor said. “People need to understand that just because they have not experienced the Japanese culture does not mean it is just about cartoons or samurai fighters.”

When Taylor was 7, he wanted to move to Japan to experience what it was like. Now, after studying abroad there, he wants to spread the knowledge.

A festival for everyone

From 2 to 7 p.m. tonight in the Library Mall, JCO is putting on the Japanese Spring Festival, which Taylor said is almost in its 10th year.

Integrative studies sophomore and JCO treasurer Ernest Smith said the festival is free to students and gives them a chance to experience a different culture.

“The Japanese Spring Festival is an extension of JCO for people who may not necessarily be a part of the club,” Smith said. “In this world, people need to be aware of other cultures, and I feel this is a great opportunity for the UNT population to do just that.”

The festival will feature different booths and hands-on activities that people passing by can participate in, merchandising and business senior and JCO event coordinator Kelli Cain said.

Instead of just passing out fliers and brochures, Cain said people are actually going to be able to see the culture firsthand and participate.

“We are going to have everything from a pop culture booth with Japanese artwork and calligraphy to an opportunity for students to participate in a tea ceremony,” Cain said.

Cain said she is most excited for the performances. A dance group of both Japanese and U.S. dancers and club members will be performing modern and traditional dances for those who stop to watch.

“The festival is really a mix of both pop culture and traditional customs,” Cain said. “There will be a lot of variety, and a lot for students to participate in.”

Smith said he is looking forward to people trying out traditional Japanese attire.

“We are going to have people there who know how to properly apply the dressing on students, because the traditional Japanese wear, such as the kimonos, are beautiful but expensive,” Smith said. “From there, students can take pictures or just have fun wearing this elaborate clothing.”

Learning from peers

JCO is made up of a diverse group of UNT students, some of which are  Japan natives.

Fashion merchandising sophomore and JCO vice president Shoko Tanaka moved to Texas from Japan a few years ago and said JCO really helps people get a better understanding of Japan.

“All cultures and places are different,” Tanaka said. “However, I was really surprised when I came to America and saw just how many people actually appreciated and were interested in my culture.”

She said during Tuesday night meetings, they do more than just go through slideshows.

“We spend time actually trying to learn each others’ languages,” she said. “The Japanese students will help teach Japanese, while the English-speaking students help those who cannot speak it very well learn more about it.”

JCO also interacts with Japanese students on campus in order to learn everyday differences, like how Japanese college compares to college in the United States.

“They do so many things differently than us,” Taylor said. “It is just extremely interesting to get to dive into their customs and learn more about their day to day life, but it is also amazing to get to meet these Japanese students and see how much they enjoy it, as well.”

A whole new world

From the fashion to the diverse music and traditions, Cain said Japan has a lot to offer.

“We are not putting this festival on to just get more people to know about our organization,” Cain said. “We want people to learn more about this culture and how amazing and interesting it is, whether that be with us or on their own.”

Taylor said he hopes people enjoy the festival and walk away with some new insight on not only Japanese culture, but the world.

“Every culture is different,” Taylor said. “We just are really dedicated to what we want the UNT community to see in the Japanese culture, because there is just nothing quite like it.”

Featured Image: Theater senior Kana Shimonaka performs a traditional Japanese dance called Bon-odori during last year’s Japanese Culture Fest. Photo courtesy of club president Cory Taylor.

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