Japanese Cultural Association welcomes autumn with ‘Aki Matsuri’ festival

Besides the well-known fall traditions of pumpkin carving and apple picking, students at the College of William and Mary could participate last weekend in lesser-known fall festivities celebrated on the other side of the globe.

The Japanese Culture Association hosted an “Aki Matsuri” festival at Trinkle Hall Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The autumn celebration, which the association plans every year, includes traditional Japanese games, music, food and entertainment for attendees to enjoy.

Event Coordinator Carmi Thompson ’17 described why the association chose to celebrate the fall season as opposed to Japan’s other festivals.

“In planning this event, we wanted to symbolize ‘matsuri,’ or festivals that are throughout Japan, as Japan has all kinds of festivals for pretty much anything that you can think of,” Thompson said. “We decided to celebrate [the] fall festival because it’s a nice time to come after fall break and hang out with your friends, enjoy some good food, play a few games and listen to Japanese music or watch cultural videos.”

The event was set up with round tables in the center of the room where attendees could sit to enjoy food and company while watching various shows. Booths for different activities and food options were located at the sides of the room. Tickets — sold at $1 per ticket or $5 for 7 tickets — gave students access to the booths. All the while, Japanese pop music blared from the speakers.

Most of the booths consisted of a variety of traditional Japanese delicacies cooked and prepared entirely by members of the association. Mai Kondo ’16, an exchange student from Japan who joined the Japanese Culture Association this past year, manned one of the booths. She described the two types of treats she served.

“‘Onigiri’ is a rice ball that comes [in] flavors of fish, vegetable and sesame,” Kondo said. “We also have ‘daigaku imo,’ basically sweet potatoes, [which] is a traditional Japanese dessert.”

Many other traditional foods were available. “Takoyaki” is a ball-shaped snack made of wheat and flour flavored with a unique sauce. The club also provided “dango,” a sweet rice cake, and “yakitori,” which is glazed chicken on a stick.

Attendee Andy Yang ’18 commented on his favorite foods at the event.

“I particularly liked onigiri and takoyaki,” Yang said in an email. “It reminded me of my uncle, who lives in Japan. It brought back some good memories with him.”

Other booths featured calligraphy, trying on yukata kimonos and playing a traditional game called “hit and cover.” This game is essentially rock, paper, scissors; the winner takes an inflated bat and tries to hit the opposing player’s head before they put a plastic pail on their head.

Some of the JCA members also performed Japanese traditional dances known as Soran Bushi and kendo, a modern Japanese martial arts practice.

“I hope that they very much enjoy[ed] the food … [got] a chance to learn about a culture that’s different from their own, and just have a good time on a relaxing afternoon …  Hopefully we were able to provide that,” Carmi said.



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