Japanese Culture Club welcomes spring with its Cherry Blossom Festival

Mack Foley, A&C Reporter

The Japanese Culture Club hosted its fourth annual Cherry Blossom Festival on March 22, celebrating the arrival of spring with music, food, a fashion show and more.

The Cherry Blossom Festival, known as hanami, is a Japanese event that began in the 700s during the Nara period when ume blossoms were celebrated. Now every spring when cherry trees begin to bloom, friends and family alike gather to picnic under the blossoms, known as sakura. Cherry blossom festivals are also held in the United States now, with some of the larger American festivals taking place in Washington D.C., San Francisco and Macon, Georgia.

The Japanese Culture Club’s celebration kicked off with a live performance from the App State Video Game Ensemble saxophone quartet, which played music from the video game series “Kirby” and the anime “Cowboy Bebop.”

“The first I heard about this event was from Becky (Berrian),” Brandon Lu, vice president of the Video Game Ensemble, said. “She and I had lived in the same dorm freshman year and we were very close, so she asked me if I was able to play. Then she said the five most beautiful words I’ve ever heard when someone’s asked me to do a gig: ‘Can you do Cowboy Bebop?’”

The live music continued at different times throughout the evening. Lu played two more songs by himself and local indie band Kuma Kid performed later in the night.

The club also held a fashion show by Japanese exchange students, during which they showed off traditional Japanese clothing including kimono, yukata and jinbei.

As the models made their way down the runway, Japanese Culture Club president Shannon Wells gave information about the students and the clothes they were wearing.

Leroy Wright, App State’s associate vice chancellor of student development, was in the crowd for his second time at a JCC Cherry Blossom Festival.

“I think this is another opportunity to promote inclusiveness and diversity here at Appalachian,” Wright said. “The favorite aspect I have is students sharing their culture, educating others and creating an experience for our community, faculty, staff and students about Japanese culture and influences and how it impacts our lives. It’s a good multicultural experience.”

The JCC also provided common Japanese food for everyone that attended and spent more than seven hours making enough for 200 attendees, Wells said. Visitors chose from one of two appetizers, miso soup or yakitori, marinated chicken skewers; two entrees, vegetable curry or nikujaga, smoked sausage with vegetables; and two desserts, either matcha cookies or mochi.

While attendees were eating, the club celebrated modern Japanese pop culture as Japanese exchange students performed a dance to Gen Hoshino’s 2016 single “Koi.” Their performance was followed by App State’s K-Pop Association, who carried out dance routines to a minimix of Japanese versions of NCT 127’s “Limitless,” BLACKPINK’s “As If It’s Your Last” and Pentagon’s “Gorilla.”

The celebration also included another dance act, in which a J-pop dance trio performed a routine to E-girls’ “Dance With Me Now!”

For those that enjoyed or missed this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival or are interested in getting involved with the Japanese Culture Club, the club holds meetings every Monday at 5 p.m. in the Attic Window room of the Plemmons Student Union. The Asian Student Association is also hosting a culture night on March 27 from 6-7 p.m. in I.G. Greer Auditorium.

Story by: Mack Foley, Intern Reporter

Photos by: Brendan Hoekstra, Intern Reporter