Delicately-worn silks, vibrant flowers, stories passed down from generations and the roar of Japanese culture greeted students as they wandered into the Titan Student Union Pavilion at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.
The Japanese Culture Club held its seventh annual Japan Culture Expo to showcase some of the many interactive activities and performances of Japanese tradition.
“It’s a place where people who enjoy Japanese culture can come around and make friends with each other while learning about aspects of Japan that they didn’t know about,” said Jarrel Olivares, vice president and treasurer of Japanese Culture Club.
Olivares is responsible for sourcing sponsors and volunteers to enhance the expo’s interactive appeal and said he appreciates their desire to help out the Japanese Culture Club during the expo.
Ikebana, or flower arrangement, was one of the sponsored events and gave guests the chance to learn the art and take home their very own arrangement. Beautiful, fresh flowers and dainty branches littered the table as students gathered in an assembly line and brought the art to life.
Sogetsu Ikebana, a Japanese flower arranging school that has a branch in Los Angeles, sponsored the workshop and brought volunteers along to explain the process and significance of flower arrangements.
“In the Japanese style of ikebana, you’re creating an open space and harmony in nature. So the flowers face forward, you are the audience, so you want to have an appreciation for the flowers,” said Marilyn Drageset, director of Sogetsu Ikebana at the Los Angeles branch.
Arrangements filled the room as student after student took their turns, clutching their finished products like trophies.
“I didn’t realize there was a process to arranging flowers,” said Madelyn Moss, a first-time visitor at the expo.
Guests were also able to participate in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, which was a highlight of the expo and scheduled in two parts. Students watched the volunteers walk around, bowing and mingling politely in traditional kimonos before the show.
It was a choreographed ritual of serving matcha, a Japanese green tea. The performance included the host and two guests, as it would be served in a regular setting. The entire ceremony is based on the host’s movements to prepare and serve the tea. Executed in almost complete silence by moving the utensils in calculated patterns, the guests receive and also silently drink the tea.
“It’s mainly just a way to bridge that cultural gap,” said Erika Salgado, president of the Japanese Culture Club.
Salgado said many international students find their way to the club, which is mostly American, and are able to exchange and learn from each other.
CSUF student and Japanese volunteer, Kanako Hamano was in charge of shodo, the practice of calligraphy. Using just one brush and an ink pot, guests picked a meaningful character symbol to recreate on paper. Guiding their hands, pointing out the fluid motion and showing the correct sequence to make the character, Hamano helped many students perform the task.
Hamano said she doesn’t consider herself an expert, but remembers creating these beautiful marks on paper as a child and wanted to use the knowledge she had to help.
“I think that everyone doesn’t know Japanese culture or tradition,” Hamano said. “I want Japanese culture or tradition to be more spread out. I think it really helps with this program.”