Japanese Festival returns to Pima

By JOE GIDDENS

Tucson Japanese Language School performs in the opening ceremony for the second annual Tucson Japanese Festival. During the festival, the school raised money by selling Japanese curry and rice balls.

There was a big fight feel hanging in the air at the Pima Community College Downtown Campus, as the crowd cheered and the young squealed with delight as people used traditional Japanese wooden mallets to pulverize the rice in the mortar to make mochi. 

Working quickly and bringing the hammers down evenly, student senator Micah Paul Sherman commended the two-person team of PCC Diversity Club members and to uses his fists to aid in the mochi demonstration. 

“Awesome! Because it brings Asian culture to the Southwest,” Sherman said.

This catharsis in watching rice get beaten into a fine paste has roots going back at least the last 800 years across the Pacific. To many in Japan, it symbolically beats suffering into submission as the New Year arrives.  

Student Senator Micah Paul Sherman, center, cheers on PCC the diversity club during the ceremony.

The Downtown Campus hosted the second annual Tucson Japanese Festival on Jan. 20. Sponsored by SAJCC, over 1,000 people attended to appreciate Japanese history, delicacies, entertainment and to celebrate the New Year. 

From left: Tomomi Katz helps Elaya Skinner get her garments prepped for the Tucson Japanese Festival.

“The Tucson Japanese Festival started five years ago, and we’re excited to promote Japanese culture,” said Yuki Ibuki, director of Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition. 

The SAJCC began this now-annual event as a Mochitsuki, the ceremonial pounding of mochi cakes, which is a traditional food staple of the “Oshogatsu,” or New Year’s, celebration. Event attendees were treated with a sample of what was historically a luxury food of the ruling class and a traditional New Year’s food.

The event has grown to be all encompassing of Japanese culture. Guest speakers discussed everything from the origins and history of anime and manga to rock ’n’ roll, while martial arts demonstrations took place on the quad. Taiko drumming, music and dance performances also delighted attendees in the Amethyst Room. 

The second floor of the campus center was host to origami, arts and crafts, traditional games and toys. Some of the highlights included Kendama, a chance to test hand-eye coordination with a Japanese variant of cup and ball toys, and Fukuwarai, a popular Lunar New Year game where players don blindfolds and construct silly faces in a way reminiscent of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. 

“We are promoting Japanese culture to contribute to world peace,” Ibuki said. “The spirit of Japan is to don’t fight, keep peace. We don’t like fighting.

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