Students explore Japanese culture

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Country’s customs, beliefs taught by organizations using traditional practices

While many Americans might affiliate Japanese culture with sushi, karaoke and anime, the UT Japanese Association hosted a fall festival to expand students’ knowledge about the country.

The Japanese student group celebrated its fifth annual Fall Festival Friday evening, showcasing Japanese food, dance and games, along with a traditional sword fight called “Kendo.”

Entertainment included traditional Japanese dance as well as contemporary performances such as a hip-hop dance by the Korean Student Association dance crew. Pianists and singers also showcased their talent.

The cold weather and threat of rain moved the event from Gregory Plaza to Jester Center.

For $4 a plate, visitors sampled authentic Japanese food such as yakisoba noodles, fried chicken and okonomiyaki pancakes, which are less well-known in the United States than foods such as sushi and chicken teriyaki.

The group’s president, Nick Prum, wore a traditional Japanese robe called a “happi” at the event. He said since the organization is only six years old and has about 70 members, the annual festivals are important events to raise awareness about the group.

“There are not that many Japanese people on campus, but we do have a lot of people who are just taking Japanese and have high interest in Japanese culture,” said Prum, an advertising senior. “We just want to give them a place where they can come and share their interests.”

The group will organize a similar event in the spring called the Golden Week Festival, where they will again present traditional performances and food throughout the week. Other Asian student organizations, such as the Korean Student Association, Filipino Students Association and Chinese Student Association, were present at the festival.

Prum said other student groups’ presence at each others’ events helps spread awareness of each organization and builds ties between the clubs.

Although undeclared sophomore Lartrell Ransom is not Japanese, he joined the organization to immerse himself in the culture while learning the language, he said.

Plan II sophomore Ritika Gopal said she came to the event to see her boyfriend perform and noticed similarities between the Japanese culture and her own Indian culture.

“Both cultures are from the Eastern hemisphere, so a lot of the elements are kind of the same,” she said. “Both cultures tend to have a lot of people on stage and dance all at once, and you don’t really see a lot of that here.”