First Japanese spring festival in Columbia draws hundreds

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COLUMBIA – Hundreds gathered at the first ever Japanese Spring Festival on MU’s campus Monday afternoon. Student Momoko Tamamura came up with the idea for the festival as a way for her and fellow MU students from Japan to share a piece of their culture with people in Columbia.

“I have been wanting to organize a Japanese event to introduce Japanese culture because since I came here I realize that some people think China and Japan are the same,” Tamamura said.

There are only six exchange students from Japan currently studying at MU. Tamamura said because of this they feel they need to share their culture with others around them as a way to feel more at home.

Michael Sickels works in the university's Asian Affairs Center and oversaw the event. He said the turnout was “absolutely fantastic.”

“It [the festival] was a good way to bring them together, and they were very motivated to be able to show their culture to America,” Sickels said. “They really respect our culture, they’re interested in ours, and they want to foster interest in theirs.”

The festival had different booths and stations for visitors to get some hands-on learning with Japanese traditions. Visitors made origami and could also learn to speak and write certain Japanese words and phrases. There was a Yukata booth where people could dress in traditional Japanese clothing, and a Sukura project where people write down a wish and then add it to the tree on the wall.

After visiting some, or all, of these booths people could make their way to the sushi making station. 

Tearra Haskins-Jannelle stopped by the festival and said she learned a lot more than she knew before attending.

“I think people should definitely come to events like this because it’s just a whole other culture, and it opens up their world more,” Haskins-Jannelle said.

Tamamura said she would consider the turnout a success.

“At the beginning of this exchange life I felt like people were kind of cold,” Tamamura said. “But now I feel like Columbia is a really good place. People are so nice and caring.”

The festival drew an estimated 250 to 300 people. Tamamura said she was expecting around 100. She plans to pass on the tradition of the festival to the next group of Japanese students.