The scent of curry and the beat of drums greeted students as they filed into the Armstrong Pavilion on Friday. Inside, Miami’s Japanese Culture and Language Club (JCLC) was hosting Shinnenkai, a celebration of the Japanese New Year .
“We’ve been planning this event since last year,” said JCLC president Josie Masset. “We always do a Shinnenkai event, but we wanted to make this one really big.”
And they succeeded — the event attracted over 400 people. Masset described the turnout as “really good.”
As it has in past years, JCLC teamed up with other groups to plan the event. This year, it worked with the Taiko club, which practices traditional Japanese percussion and the Anime club. Both organizations had booths at the event. Passersby even got the chance to try out Taiko drumming for themselves — although most fell short of the synchronicity displayed by the performers.
Attendees also sampled Japanese cuisine and explored booths introducing them to aspects of Japanese culture: origami, Omamori good luck pouches (small satchels with wishes written on them), calligraphy, traditional dress and more.
At each booth, attendees received a stamp on a “passport” to be applied toward food and raffle tickets. The raffle prizes included a Nintendo Switch and a Fujifilm camera.
The event also featured appearances by Four Paws dogs sporting sushi chef bandanas — a popular attraction, as could be expected.
The event also included performances from Taiko club, Fusion Dance Team and the Red Dragons Martial Arts club. Senior Jonathan Marcaly, a member of the Red Dragons, said the event was a unique opportunity for performers as well as attendees.
“[Demonstrations] give you a unique opportunity where you get to push yourself as a martial artist in ways you don’t get to in the studio,” Marcaly said.
The dedication applied by performers from all three groups was apparent in their expressive displays of talent. Energetic chanting and the pounding of drums thrummed through the room as the Taiko club performed. There was an audible “ooh” when sophomore martial artist Olivia Snyder effortlessly picked up and threw her opponent. Members of the Red Dragons even smashed brick with their bare hands.
While the event aimed to entertain, it wasn’t strictly fun and games. Students who didn’t know much about Japanese culture were granted the opportunity to expand their knowledge by folding colorful paper into cranes, donning floral kimonos and answering trivia questions. Sophomore Tim Doren, who was volunteering at the Omamori booth, was thrilled at the chance to educate.
“It’s really cool to teach people,” he said. “And by teaching people I’ve learned a lot.”
Attendees naturally gravitated toward the food table, but their interest was piqued by other activities, too. Many enjoyed the culture and history presented by the booths, and others were drawn to the dynamic nature of the performances.
The Japanese Culture and Language Club is open to anyone interested in Japanese culture, regardless of knowledge of the language. It meets at 7:00 p.m. every other Tuesday in Upham Hall.