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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Festival celebrates Japanese culture

The Hood Museum and the Hopkins Center celebrated Japanese Festival Day Saturday, exposing the College and local communities to traditional Japanese forms of music, art and meditation. The event was in conjunction with the Hood's current "Tales of Japan" exhibit.

"Drawing together the visual and performing arts components associated with this rich exhibition had helped demonstrate how the arts in general can be multi-faceted and accessible to everyone," Aileen Chaltain, manager of arts education services at the Hopkins Center, stated in a press release.

In the major event of the festival, the Burlington Taiko group traditional Japanese drumming pieces with large percussion instruments, which were once used for communication and religious ceremonies. The highly choreographed routine included storytelling and recitations of Japanese poetry. At one climatic point the drummers dressed in tattered costume to recount the tale of a village that used drums to scare away roving bandits.

Throughout the day, children crowded around tables at the Top of the Hop to try their hand at origami, a traditional practice of paper-folding and sumi-e, a traditional form of painting.

In the Hop's Shepard Auditorium a group from Barnet, Vt. demonstrated kyuudo, the practice of Japanese meditative archery. Robed archers fired arrows into white targets on-stage.

In the Hood galleries housing the "Tales of Japan" exhibit, a kimono-clad Yasko Kanai '97, a native of Gotemba, Japan, played a miniature koto, a stringed instrument once popular in Japan. The koto resembles a harp, with keys corresponding to musical notes.

Kanai said she had learned to recognize the value of Japanese traditions after living in the United States for three years, even though most Japanese youth are disinterested in their country's tradtions.

"Most girls in Japan don't even know how to wear a kimono," she said. "I feel lucky that I get to wear this here."

Local schoolchildren displayed artwork containing Japanese themes in Alumni Hall and the Top of the Hop.

Joan Bicknell, an origami enthusiast, showed children how to fold cranes and jumping frogs and showcased her own elaborate folding of boxes and ornaments.

"I have been doing origami for 12 or 13 years," said Bicknell, a Newark, Vt. resident.

Bicknell said the fascination of origami lies in folding two-dimensional pieces of paper in three-dimensional ways.

At another table in the Top of the Hop, children tried their hand at sumi-e, a form of Japanese painting which tries to portray objects in nature with as few brush-strokes as possible.

For a lunch treat, Panda House's Bamboo Garden provided free sushi, which visitors ate quickly. The Courtyard Cafe also served a Japanese-style menu.

Jennifer Hansen, a West Lebanon resident, brought her three children to the event. She said the hands-on experience and exposure to another country's culture provided to her children were reasons she liked the event.

"I think [the Japanese festival] is fantastic. I think it's really good to have all the adult demonstrations as well as children's stuff," Hansen said.

"We try to bring to life the cultural and aesthetic traditions embodied in visual art for all of our audiences -- teachers, students, families and adults -- through a wide range of programs" said Lesley Wellman, Hood's curator of education.