While past Japan Nights have included a miscellany of different skits and activities, this Sunday’s edition will be focused on a theatre performance, which will incorporate song, dance, acting and martial arts into a single storyline.
The Binghamton University Japanese Association (BUJA) has been around for 22 years, and Japan Night is one of the club’s oldest traditions. Every year, the event has a different theme. Past themes have included “yuku haru,” which means “graduation” in Japanese, and “bushido,” the code of samurai warriors. This year’s theme is “geki,” which means “theatre.”
“In Japan, there is a long history of theatre performance such as noh and kabuki, and the word for “theatre” just encompasses the whole realm of performance on stage,” said Shanita Li, the club’s publicity chair and a senior majoring in anthropology.
“The word ‘geki’ also encompasses the idea of elegance,” said Elsie Tan, vice president of BUJA and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.
Tan said the theme of elegance will be present in the decorations for the event. She said the entrance to the Mandela Room of Old University Union will be decorated like a theater, and the inside will have the feel of an underwater palace.
“We’ve tried to go up and beyond with our room decoration,” she said. “We have a reputation of being one of the most artistic Asian groups on campus, and we want people to really recognize the decorations this year.”
The group will be presenting a performance based on a traditional Japanese folktale, the story of Urashima Taro. The story is about a fisherman who rescues a sea princess disguised as a turtle. For his kindness, he is rewarded with a trip to the sea king’s underwater palace, where he stays for three days among the royal court. When he returns to the surface, he learns that 300 years have passed on land in the three days that he was in the palace.
“It’s a very wise tale,” Li said. “It’s a sad story, but it’s also an enjoyable story and there’s a lot of lessons that can resonate with people.”
Because the show is based off of an oral folktale passed on through generations, there was no official script to follow, so the script for this particular performance was written by BUJA members.
The cast of the show is made up of BUJA’s executive board and general body members, as well as students from other associations, such as the Asian Student Union, the Philippine-American League and Chanbara.
“One of the main challenges when writing the script was trying to incorporate all the different groups into the storyline, and I think it worked out nicely,” Li said.
Li said that BUJA’s executive board members have tried to get more of the club involved by taking on minor roles in the performance and pushing general body members into the spotlight.
“We didn’t really worry about whether our members had acting experience, because as long as they’re interested, they’ll put the work in,” Li said. “When we get together for acting practice it’s just a fun, bonding experience.”
Tan said she hopes to expose audiences to Japanese culture.
“Many people have misconceptions about Japan, and they usually don’t know about the cultural and traditional aspect of it unless they studied abroad or have taken a Japanese culture class,” Tan said.
The event will take place on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Mandela Room. Admission for the event is $7, which includes food catered by Kampai Japanese Steakhouse in Vestal.