Decked in paper ribbons and filled with people in ornate robes of pink and gold, the Shriver Center Heritage Room was unrecognizably festive last Saturday. It played host to a celebration called Shinnenkai, which roughly translates to New Year’s Party. The event was a collaboration by Miami’s’ Japanese Culture and Language Club, Taiko Drumming Club and Anime Club.
Booths adorned with delicate calligraphy and vibrant trifolds each boasted a different attraction, from origami to dress-up stations where visitors could try on traditional Japanese clothing.
Attendees were given a “passport” as they entered, which served as both a guide to the various stations scattered around the room, as well as a checklist that, when filled out, entitled the holder to access the buffet at the back of the room.
“The food was awesome,” said freshman Tristan Campbell, referencing dishes like curried vegetables, potstickers and spring rolls. “I liked seeing how they cooked real, Asian inspired food, and it tasted really good.”
Starting in one corner of the room, I wound my way through the event, taking in everything Shinnenkai had to offer.
At the holidays booth, I learned about Valentine’s Day in Japan, which is actually split into two separate days, one for girls to give gifts to boys and one for boys to return the favor. Additionally, I discovered that Japanese people give two kinds of chocolate to one another — one kind to coworkers and acquaintances and one kind for true loved ones.
At the arts and crafts station I watched as the station attendant expertly folded the colorful paper into graceful cranes and rotund frogs. Bending and twisting the paper myself, I clumsily mimicked the instructor, giving rise to a crumpled crane that I was proud of all the same.
In the booths that followed, Taiko drummers encouraged passersby to try the instruments for themselves, and club members swept graceful calligraphy characters onto the stiff white canvas. The various stations painted a rich picture of Japanese culture.
“This is our biggest event of the year,” said JCLC president Danielle Rymers. “We plan for months, and we’re really happy with the turnout this year.”
Danielle said that most years, the JCLC hosts this event by itself, but this year, it wanted to reach out to other Japanese based organizations on campus to make the event as complete as possible.
Sprinkled throughout the event were various live performances. The first to take the stage were JCLC’s faculty advisor and Danielle herself, as they acted out a complex and somber tea ceremony. Following them was the Taiko club, who enthusiastically pounded away at their drums in perfect synchronicity.
The event displayed a rich tapestry of Japanese culture, offering an incredibly wide variety of activities and events to enrapture visitors and bringing a touch of foreign splendor to Oxford.