When the cherry blossoms in Philadelphia bloom and spring weather hits the city, it is time for Temple to welcome and celebrate Japanese culture. International Programs and Anime club responded by hosting its annual Japan Fest on Thursday.
“Japan Fest is for the whole Temple community to promote Japan by showing modern and ancient Japanese culture, along with the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia,” said Kelly Dougherty, Outreach and Marketing Coordinator of International Programs. “We would like to make students aware of Japanese and other cultures and to open their minds for thinking outside of America and American culture.”
Japan Fest was started in 1999 to help students and faculty have a better understanding of Japan’s culture. It was also launched for the promotion of Temple University’s Japan campus, which offers a semester or a year long study abroad program for American students.
Traditional dance and drum Taiko performances, which attracted a large number of students last year, were not held Thursday due to a scheduling conflict. The Anime Club showcased current Japanese pop culture instead of focusing on traditional culture.
“We want to change people’s perception on Japan itself by doing this,” said Paul Gasparl, an advisor of Anime. “Ten years ago, when people thought about Japan they would think of old, old stuff such as Geisha and Samurai. Now things are different. We want to educate people, like, ‘look, this is what the Japanese are doing and a lot of cool things are going on, different from Geisha and Samurai.'”
A long line of tables in the Tuttleman Lobby showcased traditional paper crafts called Origami, Japanese mask making and calligraphy presentations. They also held a tournament of the popular tactical card game Yu-Gi-Oh and showed two recent movies, Ringu and Last Vampire.
Although it seems many students enjoyed those events, something is different for those who have experienced Japan itself.
“Though I think Japan Fest is a very good way to show something about Japan to Temple community, I don’t see Japan here,” said senior Kim Rowles who spent her last semester in Japan. “Video games, calligraphies and Origami are really Japanese art forms, but I did not see any of them when I was in Japan. Maybe people just picked them up because they are different to be interested in the United States.”
But Madame Saito, who comes to every Japan Fest to provide Japanese foods, thinks promoting awareness of different cultures is important.
“There are still many people who do not know about Japan and Japanese foods,” Saito, an owner and chef of Le Champignon de Tokio in Philadelphia, said. “But I am more than happy to see that students enjoy our foods, saying ‘oh, it’s really good’ with smiles. I think better understanding starts from there.”
Toshi Horiuchi can be reached at email@example.com.