By Ayumi Fukuyama For The North American Post
Bringing Japan to Bellevue College has always been the mission of the Japanese Culture Exchange Club at Bellevue College ever since it was created. Since the campus was effectively closed over much of the past year and a half, we worked for months to create this year’s virtual Japan Week. This annual event is one of the largest student-organized events held at the college with continuous support from the local community. A brand new team of student leaders, which could only meet through video-conferencing, brainstormed, planned, and executed Bellevue College’s Japan Week 2021 this fall (Oct. 4-9).
This was the fifth annual BC Japan Week event and 2021 marks the second year the event was held online. Still, it included a variety of speakers from across the country, five contests, and personalized videos from several performers, lecturers, and groups. Having the event online provided some advantages as the event is accessible from anywhere around the world at any time. But nothing can ever beat walking on campus and immersing yourself into Japanese culture; so the club is looking forward to returning to a live, on-campus format next year.
To satisfy some of the desire for real time face-to-face interaction, we integrated many live-streamed sessions with links to numerous pre-recorded videos. Our daily webinars featured motivational speakers such as Shinji Maeda, the one-eyed pilot who flew solo around the world; a vegetarian cooking demonstration by Rev. Taijo Imanaka, the head priest of Seattle Koyasan Buddhist temple; and a Rakugo (traditional Japanese comedy) session from Tozaburo Yanagiya. During the one-week event, over 4,400 people visited the Japan Week website created by our wonderful student web-design team that made several improvements over the previous year. Over 670 people signed up to attend our live webinar sessions. The contests consisted of kyara-ben (decorative bento box lunches), origami, kendama (skill toy), Japan trivia, and cosplay costumes for which we received entries from 14 different countries. The amount of talent we saw throughout these contest submissions overwhelmed our hearts. Providing a platform for them made what we did worth our time.
Similar to last year, we kept the mask on our beloved Daruma mascot while changing the kanji character on its stomach. Each year, the team selects a kanji character that represents the year’s theme; for 2021, we decided on “Shinjiru” which translates to “trust; believe.” We should all believe and trust that we can soon overcome this pandemic together. And we should also believe in our futures and in ourselves.
Although this was our second year switching our on-campus festival to a virtual version, we were hit with new challenges. We were faced with the hardship of audience engagement through social media which was a new platform that students had to learn how to promote.
With immense support from the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle and the passionate local community, we were able to overcome the new challenges we faced this year. We hope that all visitors, lecturers, and performers enjoyed the event as much as we did organizing it. COVID-19 will not stop our team from continuing our annual Japan Week and we hope to see you all on campus next year!
Bellevue College Japan Week
Ayumi Fukuyama was president of the BC Japanese Culture Exchange Club for the past two years. She just graduated and is currently working at the Hyatt Regency.