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Festival raises money for Japanese disaster victims

Zach Watson / Lantern reporter

With a showcase of paper cranes, kimonos and music, the Japanese Spring Festival raised money and awareness for people still suffering from the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan more than a year ago.
“They still need help,” said Erin Hope, a fourth-year in Japanese. “I think they’re gonna need help for quite a while.”
The seventh annual Japanese Spring Festival April 29 in the Performance Hall of the Ohio Union showcased aspects of Japanese culture to raise money for people affected by the tsunami and earthquake in the Tohoku region of Japan.
The Japanese Student Organization, which has been raising funds since the disaster last March, organized the festival.
The event also featured live performances. The performances offered classical Japanese music played on wooden stringed instruments known as “kotos,” and modern rock from Katie and the Bio-luminescent Monkeys! and The High-Kicks.
Hope, the president of JSO, described the event as a celebration of Japanese culture. She also said that with this year’s festival, the organization tried a new approach to help tsunami and earthquake victims.
“We’re having schools making educational projects about Japanese culture,” Hope said. “They folded 1,000 cranes and then all that is gonna be sent to Japan.”
Hope said each paper crane contains a message students from the participating local K-12 schools wrote. She said the cranes will be sent to schools in Japan that were affected by the tsunami and earthquake.
Hope said introducing festival attendees to Japanese culture was vital, and several tables were set up to facilitate these introductions.
One table allowed people to get their picture taken while wearing kimonos, which are Japanese robes that feature artistic designs.
Laura Maurer, a graduate student in East Asian language and literature, assisted participants with putting on the kimonos.
“When I was living in Japan – I did a study abroad for a year and I worked there for two years – I took classes on how to tie kimonos,” Maurer said.
At other tables, students could write their name in calligraphy and play with Japanese toys.
Additionally, the event featured a table where attendees could send video messages to Japanese people who were affected by last year’s events.
Hope said the Institute for Japanese Studies donated some of the supplies for the cultural exhibits and put together the project with the local schools.
Attendees also had the opportunity to purchase food made by local Japanese vendors Tensuke Market, Belle’s Bread and Akai Hana. Hope said most of the food costs went to vendors, and JSO only made 25 cents for each item sold.
Though the festival started slow in attendance, it saw more than 100 people at its height. The number was small in comparison to previous festivals, in which Hope said 300 to 400 people were in attendance.
One student said it wasn’t the number of people in attendance that mattered but the variety.
“They could probably do a little more to advertise it to people outside of the Japanese program,” said Tyler Bryant, a second-year in Japanese. “But I’m always really surprised because whenever I come here, I see a ton of people that I don’t recognize too.”
The event was open to the public.
Yayoi Moriyasu, a third-year in French, saw the event as an opportunity to meet new people.
“I’m Japanese, so I want to make some other Japanese friends and some American friends who’s interested in Japanese culture,” Moriyasu said.
For Hope, the event was also about helping students who are familiar with the tsunami, and raising awareness for those that are not.
“We have people whose families were affected, and so it’s really (an) emotional and touching subject,” Hope said. “We’re trying to really tell the community about it and really support Japan no matter what.”

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