Baruch College’s Japan Club presented their Japanese-American performing arts showcase “West Meets East Matsuri” on Tuesday night in the multipurpose room. Co-sponsored by 28 different clubs, as well as USG, the event occurred as part of Asian Pacific-American Heritage Month.
The title of “West Meets East” underscored a larger theme of cultural exchange that ran throughout the event. Amy Campos, a marketing major and the vice president of Japan Club, explained how Japanese and American cultures intermingle, copying elements and practices from each other. “Japanese culture looks so much to the West. You see it in their technology … in their mindset … [In America] as well you see growth in the interest in anime, interest in Japanese culture, and Japanese fashion … In a way they borrow from each other.”
Cultural borrowing and blending proved paramount, with the night being anchored by eight unique entertainment acts that ranged from traditional Japanese dancers to a Japanese-American led rock band.
The food served also reflected this, with sushi, onigiri—a Japanese triangular shaped food made of rice and wrapped in seaweed—and ham sandwiches all making an appearance.
First to perform was COBU, a New York City dance group. Combining traditional Japanese Taiko drumming and New York inspired dance, members of COBU beat their drums in tandem with dancing through the room, calling to the crowd and inviting response. After playing a few songs, the group exited the stage, leaving the crowd electrified.
Other performers included Kent Ishimoto, a Japanese-American, and his rock band, and S-LINE, an American music group that borrows from the popular Korean musical style, K-Pop.
RESOBOX, a Japanese cultural center in Queens, provided two acts for the event. One act was a group of dancers performing the classical Japanese dance style “Nihon buyo.”
Donning traditional Japanese dress, the three dancers used fans to articulate their movements within the style, “interpret[ing] the poetry being sung in addition to dancing along with the music,” as the event’s program indicated.
The second act was a demonstration of the traditional Japanese stick-fighting art “Jodo.” The fighting style “consists solely of two-person kata practice, in which the swordsman attacks but is subdued by the person wielding the stick,” reported the program. The kata, or highly choreographed movements, led the two demonstrators throughout the room as a speaker from RESOBOX explained the reasoning behind each of their actions.
Another performer was Toshihiko Nakazawa, a Japanese dancer who immigrated to New York in 2010. With contemporary music and dance, Nakazawa changed into multiple costumes throughout his performance, ending it in a Power Ranger suit.
“If people love to see my dancing [as a Japanese person, than] people will recognize Japanese is good, [and] Japan’s cultural heritage is good,” said Nakazawa, describing his hope for the audience at the event.
Nakazawa’s hope is one that the Japan Club shares.
“We’re trying to indulge people in the culture, to show them the different acts, the different ways they perform, how they express their culture,” said Anthony Cimitile, a digital marketing major and member of the Japan Club.
Cimitile communicated the impact events like “West Meets East” have on the Baruch community at large, giving a glimpse into a cultural experience many students may have not been exposed to.
“I think [this event is] important because it opens people’s minds to how different cultures act today and in the past and … [it] teaches them more. Since students may not be privileged enough, or have the ability to take history courses in such cultures, this will help them understand more in a shorter timespan than a class would,” he added.
While Baruch has a wealth of clubs devoted to different Asian ethnicities, many students still are ignorant of the rich heritage each club draws upon. With events like “West Meets East” and the Asian Pacific-American Heritage Month, students are able to see what other cultures have to offer outside of their own and partake in a cultural exchange that stems from Baruch’s diversity.
“Asian culture at Baruch is much like saying Asian culture in New York. Baruch in general is incredibly blessed to have so much of [an] Asian populace in it. So we [have] a wide variety of Asian cultures,” said Campos. “[At Baruch] we expand our horizons, and we get to … learn what truly belongs to each culture. Which is important because people tend to generalize and that can lead to misconceptions and stereotypes. I think it is important to have these events just to see what each culture can offer,” said Campos, explaining why Japanese and other Asian cultural events hold saliency in the world of Baruch students.
Asian Pacific Heritage Month will come to a close on April 18 with the Taiwanese Student Association’s presentation of a traditional Night Market in the multipurpose room. April 19 will have a panel discussing China’s importance in the global marketplace, entitled “China @ Baruch: The Role of China in the Global Economy.” On April 21, the Hindu Student Association will celebrate Holi, the start of the lunar New Year, with “Holi on the Plaza.” The event will be a “festival of colors, music, and traditional cuisine.” April 25 will see the Vietnamese Student Association present their inaugural Miss Asia pageant, where contestants representing different countries will compete for a crown and the title of “Miss Asia.”