Japanese Student Association celebrates Harumatsuri festival

Taiko is a traditional style of Japanese drumming that is often performed at festivals like Harumatsuri. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

Plunge into Japanese culture at the Harumatsuri festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the North Village Community Center. The event is free to the public and will feature games, photo booths and live musical performances by various members of the Japanese Student Association.

Festivals play a central role in Japanese culture, so it only makes sense that JSA would offer a glimpse into Japanese tradition by putting on a cultural festival.

“It’s a fun way to get to experience another culture,” said San Antonio senior Bria Ford, the president of JSA. “You get to take in another culture without having to travel. You get to stay right here and broaden your horizons while at Baylor.”

Harumatsuri translates literally as spring (Haru) festival (matsuri) and is thus a festival to celebrate the springtime. This will be the association’s eighth year putting on the festival.

“Typically, there are all kinds of festivals during the spring in Japan,” Ford said. “We do Harumatsuri as one celebration that pulls elements from all of those.”

The festival will include eight game booths. These will include a photo booth, where guests can take photos in traditional kimonos; a booth for calligraphy; and a booth for contestants to play the Japanese version of rock, paper, scissors. There will also be a game that lets contestants race to see who can use chopsticks to move small, circular items from one place to another.

“We’re going to have a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and some traditional taiko drummers and a lot of cool little booths,” said Eagle, Idaho, senior Brian Nixon, who is the historian for JSA. “We’re also going to be giving out tickets for doing different things at the booths, like chopstick races.”

Ford said the tickets will be used in a raffle prize at the end of the festival. The grand prize for the raffle is a secret, but there will be several smaller prizes handed out as well. Festival attendees can also turn in their raffle tickets for candy or Japanese soda.

There will also be two separate live music ensembles playing at the event. The JSA band, made up of JSA members and professors, will play live contemporary music at the end of the event. Houston senior James Tabata, a JSA member, will also lead an orchestra ensemble performance.

One of the main attractions at the festival, however, will be the taiko drummers.

“My personal favorite thing is the taiko drummers,” Nixon said. “They are very loud in a very close space, and you can feel it in your chest. I think it’s really cool.”

Taiko is a very broad term for traditional Japanese drumming. The style was used historically during times of war as well as for festivals and celebrations. Although it started out as an exclusively male art form, women began to be allowed access to the ensembles in the ’80s and ’90s. There are now, generally, even numbers of males and females in taiko performances at festivals and events.

Ford said the drums are also one of her favorite parts of the festival, along with the tea ceremony. She said the tradition, rules and culture that surround both activities is very interesting to her, and she hopes others take the opportunity to enjoy them as well.

“It’s going be a really beautiful, small piece of Japanese culture here on campus that everyone should take the time to experience,” Ford said.