Arts & Events

Celebrating Cultures: Japan Week Comes to Puget Sound

Students making mochi in Wyatt courtyard during Japan Week. Photo courtesy of Professor Jan Leuchtenberger.


By Kailey Kairo

  Japan Week – sponsored by the Japanese language & culture and Asians studies programs – kicked off on Monday, April 8 with a tea and sweets tasting in Wyatt Hall. Later events from the week included a “Life After Puget Sound” alumni talk, mochi making, taiko workshop and finally an evening centered around Japanese calligraphy.

  Students had the opportunity to sample a variety of Japanese teas and sweets during the first event of this action-packed week. “It was really fun to taste all different types of tea, and I love tea myself, so it was just even better trying ones I am unfamiliar with,” Japanese major Kori Flynn (‘27) said.

  “Life After Puget Sound” featured a Q and A with three Puget Sound alumni. Thaedra Brondum (‘11) made an in-person appearance to discuss her experiences abroad in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Fukushima; she explained how her journey with Japanese language and culture led her to work with the British consulate for six years before her eventual return to Tacoma in 2022. Elliot Childless (‘17) and Christina Bonnell (‘12) presented their post-grad experiences over Zoom. Childless spoke about his life in the rural Shimane prefecture – where he currently lives – as an ALT under the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. While discussing his love for woodworking, Childless shared a wholesome moment with art and art history professor Zaixin Hong, who explained that he still uses the grad’s wood-burned calligraphy project as an example of great craftsmanship in his classes to this day. The final speaker, Bonnell, described her journey from graduation to her current position as Director of Student Welfare at the United World College ISAK Japan in Nagano Prefecture. She, too, is a prior member of the JET program. Each speaker’s unique story allowed students to envision their own futures as Japanese majors and minors. “I learned a lot about not only Japanese culture but also future career paths with my major,” Flynn said.

  Wednesday’s mochi making event offered students the opportunity to pound and eat their own mochi. Mochi, a traditional Japanese food, is produced by pounding steamed rice – called mochigome – with a wooden mallet. Students worked together to pound and rotate their mochi, which they then enjoyed in the fresh air of the Wyatt courtyard.

  Thursday evening’s taiko performance and workshop was led by Puget Sound’s taiko club, Yume Daiko, and took place in Kilworth Chapel. The club performed three songs, beginning with Matsuri – a festival song – and ending with Kawauso – a song about the life of a river otter. Afterwards, Yume Daiko members answered audience questions and guided attendees through the basic motions and skills needed to play taiko.

  Japan Week closed out with a calligraphy event on Friday evening, where students had the opportunity to learn and practice the art of Japanese calligraphy.

  These events would not have been possible without the efforts of both faculty and student volunteers. “Ludden Sensei did such a great job with all the planning, and all the other volunteers, that it would not have happened without them,” Flynn said. Reflecting on the week as a whole, Flynn said, “It shows not only students that are a part of the Japanese program what it has to offer, but also students outside or who are interested in joining as well.”