"Haru Matsuri" Ushers in Spring
The “Spring Festival” hosted by the USF Japanese Club featured exhibitions on dance, martial arts, games and food.
By Brandi Hollis
TAMPA, Fla. (March 26, 2013) – White and pink Japanese lanterns and upbeat J-Pop music officially welcomed spring Friday during Haru Matsuri, or “Spring Festival,” hosted by the University of South Florida Japanese Club.
Hundreds of students came out to enjoy the weather under the Marshall Center amphitheater while learning about Japanese culture. Entertainment included an exhibition from a local Dojo, or martial arts school, on the traditional Japanese art of aiki-jujutsu and a performance from the Korean American Student Association/Japanese Club Dance Team. Other Japanese Club members competed in a cosplay costume contest, dressing up as various anime characters, or Japanese animation characters. Students and guests could dress up too. All were welcome to try on kimonos and have their picture taken throughout the day.
The festival included the Japanese spring tradition of tying a piece of paper with a wish written on it to a white Japanese “wishing tree.” Scraps of paper in red, yellow, blue, pink and green covered the branches by early afternoon.
Alyssa Johnson, a junior in psychology, said her favorite part of the festival was the wishing tree. “I wished to pass all my classes,” Johnson said.
Other activities included trying to write Japanese symbols in calligraphy on rice paper, face painting and games like “angry rice ball,” a variation of the popular Angry Birds. Throughout the day, students toured the booths with their passports in hand to be stamped at each booth. After visiting six booths, students went to sample authentic Japanese foods like fresh sushi. For those who have never had sushi, a simple sushi roll with shrimp, chicken teriyaki and a vegetarian option was offered.
Luis Vasquez, president of Japanese Club and a senior double majoring in International business and international studies, said the event “is a great way to interact with all we have to offer.”
Vasquez, who is Peruvian, has had a love for Japanese culture since he was a child and a neighbor showed him traditional Japanese operas and let him try Japanese food. When Vasquez came to USF, his first roommate was from Japan on an exchange program. Vasquez said those two experiences led him to learn Japanese and even visit his old roommate in Japan. Vasquez said the club has members from many cultures besides Japan and all levels of Japanese speakers, from beginner to expert.
“We’re a very diverse community,” said Vasquez, “I know there are a lot of people that are hesitant to join some Asian clubs because they’re a lot of Asians so they feel in the minority, but we’re very open to everyone.”
Mako Nozu, a USF Japanese instructor, teaches all levels of Japanese and said the club offers a social aspect for students in her classes as well as for those who just love Japanese culture.
“A lot of members are also in Japanese Club so they encourage each other with the culture which helps their language skills,” said Nozu. “It really helps students become aware of the culture.”
Japanese Club works with other Asian organizations to coordinate events throughout the year. They also work with INTO, which aids international students in coming to USF, as well as J.E.T., the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, which hires USF students and sends them to Japan to teach English for a year after graduation.
Japanese Club’s next big event will be Night in Tokyo 4, a dinner hosted at the Marshall Student Center in the fall semester.