Students host Japan Day celebrations


Katie Beckler and Emily Wang

Last Friday, Upper Division (UD) Japanese classes gathered in the Recital Hall for Japan Day. “Japan Day is a day for all the Japanese classes to put on various performances and showcase their skills to the HM community,” Rhea Patel (12), one of the heads of the Japan Day committee, said. Patel worked alongside the Language department in order to facilitate the event.

Once a year, students enrolled in Japanese language classes gather to embrace Japanese culture by engaging in activities such as playing taiko drums, singing Country Roads in Japanese, and practicing karate.

Japan Day was started by a now-retired faculty member, Mami Fujisaki, over fifteen years ago, Japanese teacher Reiko Kawahara said. Fujisaki developed Japan Day in order to provide an interactive learning experience for all students in Japanese classes, she said. The event serves as a summary of what the students have learned so far.  

The most important aspect of the day is embracing and celebrating Japanese culture with the community, Japanese teacher Atsuko Matsuyama said. “Going back to Japanese culture, going back to celebrate Japan and Japanese culture: that is Japan Day.”

Many Japanese students enjoyed preparing for Japan Day, Sofia Filardo (10) said. “I really enjoyed learning about the different writing styles in particular such as Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji,” she said. Filardo enjoyed learning the language in a fun and playful way, instead of in a classroom setting, and believes that the school should host more events like Japan Day to celebrate all Asian cultures. 

Students began preparing for Japan Day several months before the event, Emma Chang (9) said. “In the months leading up to Japan day, we prepared a bunch of skits, we prepared the Soran Bushi dance,,” she said. We were able to not only apply what we learned in class, but learn more about Japanese culture generally and have it all come together in a final performance.”

“Doing the dance with everyone in person was definitely a lot of fun and nerve wracking,” Nusaiba Ashraf (10) said. Since everything was online last year, this year’s in-person Japan Day felt more important, Ashraf said. 

Japan Day not only has an influence on students who are in Japanese classes, but other students as well, Patel said. “It might make more people want to learn Japanese and it’s a great bonding experience for the Japanese classes,” she said.

The performances inspired Bethany Jarrett (10), even though she was not on stage, she said. “It was great to see other students get involved with the culture, not just speak in a classroom,” Jarrett said. The positive energy in the room was really encouraging, she said. 

Like Jarrett, Rizaa Fazal (10) also participated in this event by watching the performances, Fazal said. “I especially enjoyed listening to the drum performance put on; it was so engaging to listen to the music live,” she said. 

Similar to many of the school’s activities, Japan Day was affected by the pandemic, which resulted in certain changes from previous years, Patel said. “This year we did not have as much in the rotunda such as tea ceremony and origami and mochi tasting, but it remained very exciting nonetheless.” 

The preparation for the okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake, took about a month, Nusaiba Ashraf (10) said. “Our teacher went to the grocery store. She filmed it and we did a voiceover, and then we cooked it in the cafeteria,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Although students contributed to the scheduling of Japan Day, the Japanese teachers were crucial to the planning process as well, Patel said. “The Japanese teachers helped us a lot with planning and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Although this year’s Japan Day was unlike past ones, it was still a worthwhile and exciting experience for many students, Patel said. “It was very fun for me because I have seen many Japan days in the past and we knew exactly how I wanted the day to run,” Patel said.

“The most important thing is for our students to enjoy Japan Day,” Matsuyama said. “And it seems it was very successful, because they enjoyed it.”