News: Station residents experience Japanese culture at Festival
Story by Lance Cpl. James Smith
IWAKUNI, Japan - Station residents gathered in the Matthew C. Perry High School cafeteria here to enjoy the Japanese American Society Culture Festival, March 9, 2013.
The festival was free of charge and involved several interactive activities, including calligraphy, flower arranging and a tea ceremony.
“The point of this festival is to share the different cultural events the Japanese do with Americans,” said Duanne Cole, JAS president. “A lot of station residents don’t leave the base or get to see these events in person. By providing it on base, it makes it available to everybody.”
The JAS invited local Japanese to participate in the event.
“I’m friends with a lot of the local nationals,” said Kenneth Uedoi, Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Clinic occupational health nurse. “They help me interact with people in the community. I’ve taken a lot of Japanese language classes, but I still don’t speak it very well, so being able to talk to them helps.”
Among the activities presented, Taiko drum concert and kagura performances were part of the event.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a kagura is a stately dance of the Shinto religion that forms a part of Japanese village festivals.
The kagura performers danced the Yamata-no-Orochi, which comes from a Japanese folktale of an eight-headed and eight-tailed serpent.
“The most exciting part of the festival is the performance they do with the dragons,” said Cole. “It’s also the biggest attraction of the festival.”
The myth says a family sacrificed their daughter to the beast. Susano-o was a god banished from the heavens to Earth. He came across the family’s distress and promised to slay the serpent for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Susano-o made the serpent drunk with a large vat of strong sake, slayed it and then married the family’s daughter.
The enactment engaged actors in dragon costumes equipped with fireworks that made the performance more appealing.
With the festival displaying the wonders of Japanese culture, local nationals capitalize on their own types of exchange.
“I like how some people don’t even know each other, but everyone is smiling, laughing and interacting perfectly fine,” said Uedoi. “Everyone starts mixing together so there is less of a divide between Americans and Japanese.”
The JAS hosts several events for Japanese and American residents. As for the culture festival, residents can look forward to participating in this event again next year, as well as various other culture sharing opportunities outside the gates.