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Bellevue College 2022 Japan Week

By Isabelle Menezes For The North American Post

The mission of the Bellevue College Japanese Culture Exchange Club (JCEC) has always been to bring a part of Japan to our community. This year it has managed to do just that through its sixth annual Japan Week event (Sept. 24 – 30).

Consul General Inagaki and his wife Yuki visiting Japan Week Photo Consulate General of Japan in Seattle

Japan Week is one of the largest student-held events at Bellevue College and this year club members got together once again to organize it. Since this year’s event was going to be hybrid (both in-person and online activities would be available), preparations had to be done through both on-campus meetings and Zoom. Club member s worked hard on making posters and flyers, designing this year’s Japan Week T-shirt and setting up for the in-person activities. The web-design team also made a website to help further promote the event and Japanese culture as a whole. Its webpages provide links to different videos and articles that showcase Japanese toys, cuisine, fashion, music, history and many more topics, which attracted more than 4,500 web viewers from 40 countries during the event.

It is a club tradition to select a new kanji character every year to go on the front of our beloved Daruma mascot. This year’s chosen kanji is “Susumu,” which translates to “progress” or “advance.” It serves to signify that, despite the many changes and uncertainties that have happened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still striving to keep moving forward, one step at a time. Unlike the previous two years, this time our Daruma mascot is not wearing a mask anymore. It symbolizes Japan Week’s return to having on-campus activities.

The Public Day Festival, Saturday Sept. 24, was the in-person section of the event. That day, the campus opened its doors to over 4,000 visitors, who got to enjoy all sorts of exhibits, games and activities such as calligraphy, playing with traditional Japanese toys, singing at the Karaoke booth, Go (chess) matches, and meditation. There were also many different presentations and contests. Visitors got a chance to see taiko, dance and singing performances, participate in kendama (wooden b a ll-a n d- c up toy) a n d co s p l ay contests, watch Japanese movies and storytelling shows, as well as sign up for various lectures and workshops. Our guest speakers this year included Dr. Takanori Shibata, from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who discussed the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in healthcare by presenting his robotic therapeutic seal, PARO, and Arisa Nakamura, a Seattle-based professional graphic and manga artist, who hosted a manga drawing workshop.

Of course, the COVID-19 virus is still a concern this year, so disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and masks were provided in all areas and booths of the festival. We also decided that the latter part of Japan Week would be hosted online. For the week following Sept. 24, a number of online webinar sessions were hosted via Zoom, which Bellevue College students could sign-up for. Each weekday, from Monday (26th) through Friday (30th), there was BC Japan Week, from p. 2a different webinar, with topics ranging from origami, manga drawing, the Japanese videogame industry, robotics and AI to the Japanese American concentration camps of World War II. Online character bento box and origami contests were also hosted, where we received many wonderful submissions from participants.

Without support from the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle and our local community, our sixth annual Japan Week would not have been possible. We are extremely grateful to all who helped make our event happen and to everyone who participated in it. We look forward to hosting the event again next year!

Isabelle Menezes is a member of the Bellevue College JCEC. She is currently a Running Start student.