Japanese Festival storms Marvin Center

Friday night’s lottery to win a Nintendo Wii didn’t involve ticket stubs or bingo balls. Instead senior Tammy Gasan-Dzhalalova had to eat a sandwich full of wasabi and win a Japanese version of rock-paper-scissors-shoot at the Japanese American Student Alliance’s Omatsuri.

Although Gasan-Dzhalalova said she was excited to be taking home the night’s grand prize, she said she also walked away with more than just the game system.

Gasan-Dzhalalova described the Omatsuri – Japanese for festival – as an event that combined cultural and historical perspectives.

“For someone who is studying international affairs, Japanese culture is something I should know about,” she said.

The JASA Omatsuri was held in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom and was attended by GW students and others from local universities such as American and Georgetown. Some traveled a farther distance from the Universities of Maryland and Mary Washington, among others.

Co-president Mari Inoue, a junior, estimates that more than 200 people showed up to the event, which required attendees to pay a $5 entry fee.

Senior Matthew Ireton, public relations chair for JASA, said to the crowd in the Grand Ballroom, “when you walk out tonight we want you to know something about Japanese history.” To do this, JASA showed a series of presentations and focused on the Edo and Meiji dynasties – two important eras in Japanese history.

But the activities were not all centered on historical references and other interactive stations – like a Guitar Hero station, a calligraphy area and an origami booth – drew the crowds in as well. Participants also sampled Japanese food like sushi and green tea.

Traditional Japanese dances and songs were also performed throughout the night. The GW Kendo Club put on a high-energy show and actors appeared in the Japanese play, “The Peach Kid.”

JASA, which came to GW last year, collaborated with the Multicultural Student Services Center, the Student Association and the Japan Information and Culture Center of Washington D.C. to organize the event.

Ireton said that Friday’s Omatsuri took the JASA “to the next level.”

Junior Elly Hirano said she was surprised that the event drew such a large crowd.

“I’m glad that everyone who came got a bit of Japanese culture,” Hirano said.

Exchange student Mari Kishida, who operated the origami booth, said the Omatsuri was a good opportunity for Americans to learn more about her culture.

“We have a lot of perspectives on Japanese culture represented here – both modern and traditional ones.”

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