“Beauty of Japan” explored at MNSU

Maria Ly
Staff Writer

The Japanese Intercultural Association hosted its first Japan night in seven years showcasing their culture through performance, clothing, and food.

Mio Yoshizaki, the President of JIA, said, “We just decided to do this because a lot of people showed interest and maybe we have a different side that we can show about Japanese culture and maybe more in depth, not just pop culture but traditional culture as well.”

The theme of the event was the beauty of Japan as the night was segmented into four different parts: spring, fall, summer, and winter.

MC’s Vang Vue and Sari Rimawi led the audience into an adventure through short little skits and transitions into the seasons and performances.

Before the event guests were able to try their hand at Japanese character writing as they were given the option to choose a word such as “heart” or “love” and write it in Congi – the Japanese alphabet. 

Guests painted their words on paper and took them home as a gift.

Many other booths were set up such as game booths were guests were able to play a game of origami sumo and ninja star shooting. 

Photo booths included traditional backgrounds such as the kazaguruma wall and ema hanging where guests were given the option of Japanese clothing to wear and take pictures with.

The ballroom filled with the sounds of a plane landing as the MC’s brought the audience to Japan introducing us to the beautiful seasons with a sprinkling of fun facts about Japan such as its 1,500 yearly earthquakes.

The event was filled with dancing performances. Members from the Anime Club at MNSU performed a Wotagei dance to the anime song “Zenzenzense” performing in partial darkness with high energy and colorful glow sticks.

A large group of Japanese students also banded together in performing an idol dance, to the song “Heavy Rotation” – a song from popular Japanese idol group AKB48. Imitating real life, “fans” waved glow sticks in the air as they screamed with excitement for their idols.

Audience members were also given the chance to dance as Masaki Hara taught the group the Awaodori dance chanting “Yato san!” as the audience replied “Yato! Yato!”

Asaka Shimizu and Mio Yoshizaki performed a heartfelt singing and dancing number to “Mina Sora No Shita” about friendship and lifting each other up.

Japan night, along with its audience, was diverse in performances even having karate demonstrations. Mark Larson and Antonella Emilsson from the Minnesota Aiki Shuren

demonstrated hand to hand sword techniques as they flipped each other to the ground. 

Members Naoto Takasu and Mark Willie also demonstrated different forms and applications of karate giving a brief history of the practice as it originated from China and India and introduced to the public in 1922.

Shinna Komazawa gave a cultural lesson to the audience as she talked about the different forms of entertainment in Japan such as the snow festivals and ice statue building contests, the fisherman dance competition among college students, and Yakushima island and its beautiful nature and hiking scene.

Dominick Drabent, a student at MNSU, loved the presentation as he said, “My favorite part of Japan night was the fun educational aspects like I learned a lot of different things that I didn’t know before, especially related to dances and cultural habits so that was the most interesting part.”

Even during dinner, guests were educated about Japanese cuisine as they were served Japanese curry and rice, inari sushi, miso soup, ice cream with soy bean powder, and pickled cucumbers. 

Guests learned about the meaning of each food such as inari sushi and how “Inari” is the god of harvest in Shinto and is said to use foxes as messengers whose favorite food is deep fried tofu skin.

Sponsored by Shawarmania, guests were entered in a raffle to win a gift card with six lucky audience members obtaining the prize.

Japanese students also got together to showcase Japanese cultural clothing in a fashion show as students dressed in traditional wear called Yukata and Hapi and popular culture garb such as the Japanese school uniform, a samurai, ninja, maid, and Lolita.

The talent does not end there, as students performed a variety of musical performances. Megumi Sakiyama and Yuri Jinno performed taiko – the playing of traditional Japanese drums.

Shinna Komazawa sang a popular anime song “Inochi No Namae” from the Studio Ghibli movie “Spirited Away” with English lyrics in the background as well as scenes from the movie playing as she sung.

A student three-man-band consisting of a guitarist, bassist, and lead singer covered songs from Japanese band “Oneokrock” with love songs like “Heartache” and “Wherever You Are.”

A choir then performed the traditional graduation song in Japanese school graduation ceremonies, “Tabidachi No Hini” meaning “On the Day of Departure”.

The event ended with DJ Seigo as he mixed sounds of traditional Japanese instrumentals with modern pop songs and beats as performers hopped on stage for one last farewell dance.

Yoshizaki said, “I want the guests to leave knowing more about Japan and more interesting Japanese cultures, not just anime or manga, but also traditional cultures which had very specific meaning and very specific history to it. For the students, I want them to experience sharing a culture, what it means to share a culture with people here and people who are coming from different places.”

Header photo: Yuri Jinno and Megumi Sakiyama perform with the Japanese drum during the Beauty of Japan event at the Centinnial Student Union Ballroom Saturday, Oct. 13, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. (Samuel Oluwadoromi/MSU Reporter)

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