JSA Festival Brings Japanese Culture to EMU Campus
A version of this article in Japanese is available here.
EMU’s Japanese Student Association (JSA) held a Japanese festival at Bowen Field House on Saturday, bringing Japanese culture to the EMU campus with performances such as kendo and judo demonstrations, activities such as origami and calligraphy, as well as popular Japanese dishes and snacks often served at festivals. .
The purpose of the festival was to raise awareness of Japanese culture and provide an opportunity for students interested in Japan to get engaged again, JSA President Joanne Martinez explained.
“It’s been difficult for a lot of students to engage more and learn more about Japanese culture,” Martinez said. “And that’s part of the experience of taking Japanese lessons. Japanese lessons [have been] online since COVID, so it’s a way to help them get engaged again and rekindle their interest in Japanese culture.
Popular Japanese festival dishes were served for free, including takoyaki or fried octopus balls, yakitori, a type of chicken skewer, and yakisoba noodles, which are thin stir-fried noodles with cabbage, carrots, ginger and beef, chicken or pork. .
Origami, calligraphy and onigiri (rice dumpling) crafts were some of the activities on offer, giving festival-goers the chance to try out different aspects of traditional Japanese culture with hands-on experiences.
These hands-on experiences are central to JSA’s mission to bring Japanese culture to the EMU community. The JSA often holds events showing how different holidays are celebrated in Japan, JSA Secretary Tobias Bracken explained.
“It’s really interesting to experience a mini game of [Japanese culture]rather than just learning about it,” Bracken said.
In addition to free food and activities, five performances took place, offering insight into traditional and modern Japanese culture.
The Sakura Japanese Instrumental Group, a Michigan-based group that performs traditional Japanese music, was the first to perform. Using a variety of traditional instruments from Japan such as taiko drums, bamboo flutes and a koto, the group performed a beautiful series of traditional Japanese songs.
Spectators were then invited to participate in a Bon Odori dance, a traditional Japanese folk dance that was originally performed to welcome the spirits of ancestors.
Although Bon Odori has lost much of its religious significance, it is a popular staple of Obon, a festival held in summer in Japan where people appreciate their ancestors as they return to their hometowns.
A Kendo demonstration followed, performed by the EMU Kendo Club, showcasing the modern Japanese martial art derived from samurai sword fighting methods. Kendo was developed as a way to train with realistic combat without the risks of using real weapons.
The group, dressed in traditional Kendo armor, demonstrated a number of techniques and invited audience members to join them at the end, giving them a quick lesson in the fundamentals of Kendo.
Japanese pop culture was also showcased at the festival, with a performance by the ChiRi Girls, a Grand Rapids-based J-Pop cover band. The duo performed covers of iconic J-Pop songs like Suki and Tapioca Milk Tea.
Finally, the festival ended with a judo demonstration, showcasing the skills and technique that is why judo is called “the soft way”. Judo is an unarmed martial art, and similar to Kendo, was developed to give students the opportunity to practice combat without risk of injury or death.
Judo involves upsetting your opponent’s balance, providing techniques to lift and throw them to the ground, where choke holds or knuckle locks are then applied to pin and control your opponent.
All EMU students are welcome to participate in JSA events and some are open to the public. For more information about the JSA, email JSA President Joanne Martinez at [email protected] For more information on the EMU Kendo Club, contact Charlie Kondek at [email protected]