Japanese Culture Club fundraiser

Japanese-style arts and crafts at the fundraiser. Alyssa Brown / the Watchdog

On Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Bellevue College’s Japanese Culture Club held a fundraiser in the cafeteria to raise money for a Japanese culture festival on campus. Previously, there was a Japanese Fall Festival called Aki Matsuri which was held annually on BC campus for the past 18 years by the non-profit organization Eastside Nihon Matsuri Association. The organization set out to preserve Japanese arts and crafts culture in the greater Seattle area.

This event drew over 20,000 people every year to partake in Japanese activities and purchase authentic items made by local artists that practice Japanese-style arts and crafts as well as watch performing and martial artists. The annual Aki Matsuri tradition came to a halt however, when the president of ENMA, Thomas Broke, retired.

“There wasn’t any Japanese events on campus,” said Anne Stewart, board member of ENMA and head of the Japanese department. “Next year, from Oct. 2 to 7, we’re going to have a Japanese culture event on campus called Japan Week. And to promote that, this is the first fundraising event we’re doing.”

The fundraising event was made up of two tables set up in the cafeteria, full of authentic Japanese trinkets and items, donated by Stewart and the students of the Japanese Culture Club. Items such as chopstick rests, fans, tea cups, lacquer bowls, and DVDs were being sold, all of them brought straight from Japan. Many students talked with the members of the culture club about the cultural history of the items and some made purchases.

With ENMA essentially canceling the only Japanese culture event on campus, the Japanese Culture Club had to step in. “Unless someone steps up and takes their place, that event has kind of left a void in the Japanese community,” said Zachary Schultz, a past student of Stewart who came to help out in the fundraiser.

“Everything here is from Japan, about as authentic as it gets,” Schultz explained. “It runs the full gamut I think. Movies, omiyage.” Omiyage is the term for small gifts to friends or coworkers.

“Now I just want to introduce Japanese culture to the BC community as well as future BC students. We need to know the differences between different cultures and to respect them. That’s all you need,” said Stewart about the culture club. “To join Japanese Culture Club, you don’t have to know Japanese or be Japanese, as long as you have interest in the culture.”

Valentine’s Day of next year, the Japanese Culture Club plans on holding another fundraiser to bring them closer to regaining a Japanese Culture event on the Bellevue College campus. In the meantime, the club is always open to new members. Anyone interested in Japanese traditions, holidays, food, music or other elements of the culture are welcome to come.