Cultural workshop demonstrates Japanese traditions

Binghamton University Japanese Association celebrates Asian Empowerment Week

Binghamton University students don’t need to hike to Mount Fuji to get a taste of Japanese culture, as one club brought it to Vestal Parkway.

The Binghamton University Japanese Association (BUJA) held a cultural workshop Saturday as a part of Asian Empowerment Week, an initiative by the Multicultural Resource Center to start Asian Heritage Month, which takes place in May.

Attendees could sample Japanese culture by making origami, learning calligraphy and trying on summer kimonos, called yukatas.

“That’s one of the experiences of college, to get in touch with people outside of your comfort zone,” said Joanna Medina, the vice president of BUJA and a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience.

Modern twists were integrated into the traditional aspects represented at the workshop. At the calligraphy station, paintings of popular anime characters were interspersed with traditional Japanese drawings and characters. They also played famous Japanese films, such as “My Neighbor Totoro,” with English subtitles.

According to Dale Gao, a sophomore majoring in accounting, it was empowering to see the mix of modern and traditional accomplishments, which demonstrated the longevity of Japanese culture.

“It’s important to get a sense that as Asians, we’ve done these many great things,” Gao said.

Although the workshop focused on Japanese culture, it also emphasized the importance of maintaining cultural heritage in an environment such as a university, where many students are far from home and their own cultures.

“A lot of times, sitting in class every day, people kind of lose what culture is, without the constant reminder of home or family and the culture that revolves around it,” said Seth Mishan, a senior double-majoring in management and math.

Besides exposing students to Japanese culture, organizers also strove to build connections between international and Asian-American students by showing what they can learn from each other. For Rebecca Li, a senior double-majoring in human development and Asian and Asian-American studies, bridging the gap between these student groups was an important part of the workshop.

“We have a mixture of international students and students who are from the United States. They can learn a lot from each other in terms of what’s missing,” Li said. “When you’re born in one country and not the other, there are pieces missing and you could miss a great opportunity to fill those pieces.”

Maneo Choudhury, a junior majoring in accounting, spoke in favor of the BUJA workshop and the other events of Asian Empowerment Week.

“Sometimes media and stereotypes can make people feel disempowered or stuck to being one thing,” Choudhury said. “Asian Empowerment Week is so important because it brings out an opportunity to see that all of us have a potential greater than what stereotypes would make out and an opportunity for us to find agency for ourselves.”