The winter holiday season is enjoyed worldwide. For instance, when “Christmas” comes up in a conversation, it is safe to say that most of us think of Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus Christ. However, through centuries of history, the holiday has absorbed aspects from different cultures and religions to the point that we cannot say there is only one true origin behind the festival.
A western influence
I was a bit surprised when I learnt that most of my Japanese friends have Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as their go-to food for Christmas, so I decided to do some research. In Japan, chicken was popularised as a staple food back in the 1970s. The thriving economy allowed Japanese citizens to live more extravagant lives and US companies saw increasing opportunities to expand overseas. Amongst which, KFC took their chance and advertised Christmas chicken as an American tradition. The marketing campaign was a success as it effectively imprinted the concept of “Kentucky for Christmas” in Japan’s culture.
In countries with Christian cultural influences, Christmas is generally celebrated within the family – exchanging presents or whatnot. However, in Japan, Christianity never really took off and no one really paid attention to Christmas until late in the 20th century. Nowadays Christmas in Japan is popularized as a holiday for spreading happiness, and an evening where couples spend time together.
holiday season in kawagoe
Although we are situated in the middle of Saitama, Kawagoe offers quite a few options for winter illumination lovers. I recommend doing some Christmas shopping in Crea Mall and witnessing its sparkling additions, or returning to the classic stroll through historic Koedo with illumination in a warmer palette.
For those who prefer a more modern atmosphere, U_PLACE and UNICUS are great choices. These are basically three-storey malls with built-in cafes and restaurants where you can do your shopping while appreciating the colourful Christmas lights from the inside.
Kawagoe Farmer’s Market hosts a Christmas market in Crea Park. Make sure you don’t miss it if you are interested in some fresh Christmas delicacies!
Here at TIU, we saw our own quirky way of celebrating the holidays.
It was definitely interesting to learn that historical events find a way to influence our holiday culture in such a manner. Feel free to try and spend Christmas in a Japanese fashion at a KFC if you are feeling for some chicken or go on a date surrounded by traditional Koedo lights!
The lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi are only allowed to meet every year on the seventh day of the seventh month, but what have they done to deserve this?
Tanabata, celebrated on July 7 (Gregorian calendar) or during August (based on the traditional lunar calendar), follows the folktale behind the couple’s melancholic situation. It is said that the festival originated from an ancient Chinese ceremony shichiseki (七夕) where participants pleaded for skills and ability. Amongst the innumerable versions of Orihime and Hikoboshi’s story, one prominent depiction of the folktale describes Orihime as the princess of cloth-weaving.
The diligent Orihime was talented in her craft and her father – God – often enjoyed her masterpieces. Due to her work, Orihime felt dejected as she lacked both the opportunity and time for romantic encounters. In order to cheer his daughter up, God arranged for Orihime to meet Hikoboshi, a cowherd who lived across the Milky Way. The meeting was a success as the two fell head over heels for each other. Soon after, Hikoboshi took Orihime as his wife.
However, the galaxy went haywire once the couple married. Hikoboshi ceased to exert control over his herd of rampaging cows, and Orihime no longer weaved for her customers nor for her father. Furious, God inserted the Milky Way in between and broke the two lovers apart. So that she can see her husband again, Orihime repented and promised to work hard in exchange for yearly meetings with Hikoboshi. God granted her wish and permitted them to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month, where magpies would build a bridge with their wings upon the Milky Way, enabling Orihime to cross.
Orihime and Hikoboshi’s story is intriguing, but what do we actually do during the festival of Tanabata?
Inspired by some elements of the Chinese practice, Tanabata is a festival where we plead for our wishes to come true. During the festive days of Tanabata, you can see bamboo stalks around Japan with pieces of paper hung on them.
These pieces of paper are called tanzaku (短冊), and festival-goers write their wishes on them. Since bamboos grow straight and tall, it is said that Gods and spirits descend to drive away the impure and grant wishes. Other than hanging tanzaku, participants also often wear yukatas (traditional Japanese clothing) to enjoy the festive ambiance.
For those interested in going to Tanabata celebrations, there are a few major ones around Saitama, Tokyo, and Kanagawa; but due to the pandemic there is a high probability that they will be postponed or cancelled this year. So making your own DIY tanzaku and having a Zoom Tanabata party might be fun too!
オースティンの最近のビデオ撮影プロジェクトの一つである「To Those Also Looking for Their Passion」（情熱を探す仲間たちへ）は、AYUSHと彼の航海を追った映画です。ナレーションでは、自分の生き方を見つけるために旅を続ける大学生の誠実な奮闘が描かれています。オースティンはこの作品を通して、人生に迷うことは悪いことではなく、前を向いて進み続けることが大切であることを伝え、インスピレーションを与えたいと考えています。
Jaida Martino and Austin Martino, our current TIU students, are both talented photographers; born in South Carolina and Hawaii respectively, they have moved across states growing up. The siblings also share a passion for martial arts, but this interview reveals that those might be all that they have in common…
As a hobby, Jaida had begun with taking candid shots of her friends with a small ¥1,300 camera. Although she might vaguely remember the fun episodes in her life, these snaps allowed Jaida to crystallize and physically store captured memories. They enable Jaida and her friends to reminisce about the meals they have shared and the colourful evenings they have spent together. Jaida also loves to combine her photography skills with her other hobby – travelling – as she has recently begun monetizing her craft in the form of stock photos.
For Austin, he never intended to get into photography and videography, but a chain of events had led him to pick up his first camera, and he explained that he was glad that it happened. Austin enjoys documenting the lifestyles of people; he believes that as social beings, we all have normal struggles and it is important to acknowledge them. As a freelancer, Austin is working on commissions that paint the genuinely of familial and romantic relationships.
To illustrate some of their motivations, Jaida and Austin shared some interesting stories behind their work.
One morning, as the maternal side of her family was preparing for family portraits, Jaida decided to snap some candid “behind the scene” shots. Her album captured the sincere homely moments as “the girls were fixing their hair and the boys were chattering about something or other.” Jaida wishes that in the future, she and her family can immerse themselves in nostalgia and treasure their bonds as they flip through the album.
To Those Also Looking for Their Passion – one of Austin’s recent videography projects – is a cinematic that follows Ayush and his voyage. The narration captures the university student’s honest endeavors as he continues his journey to discover his way of life. Through this piece, Austin hopes to inspire and convey that there is nothing wrong with being lost in life, and that it is important to face forward and keep going.
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked how they were able to balance the hobby aspect and the work aspect of their crafts. The Martino siblings believe that it is inauspicious to have an employer as an artist, since when a third party regulates your art, it is no longer “your art.” They insist that it is crucial to pursue projects that you enjoy and feel inspired doing. Furthermore, Jaida asserts that “when you define yourself as something you do, then that’s where things get dangerous.” She maintains that although it is difficult to find the balance, take it easy because there is so much more to life than just identifying with one thing.
Indeed, passion and its values are different for different individuals. Especially for Austin, he believes that “nowadays, we tend to just do photography for the colours and Instagram clout, but at the end of the day, photography is really about remembering the moment and the meaning.”
Jaida has been working on product photography. You can find her on Instagram at @jaidakins
Austin is currently honing his skills as he works with a professional videographer. Visit Austin on Instagram at @auz_martino
U.G.G, an extracurricular club founded here at Tokyo International University, is home to many dance enthusiasts of different backgrounds. From hip-hop to funky rock, they are known for a wide variety of styles. For Shinzui, dancing makes him forget the stress and enjoy the fun of the moment.
To learn more about U.G.G, we interviewed Shinzui – a Chinese/Korean senior majoring in International Relations. According to the dance club member, U.G.G stands for Under Ground Groovers. In the past, they have participated in numerous competitions and performed for different venues. Just to mention a few, Shinzui described his experience at the Annual Kanto Spring Dancing Competition (Koto, Tokyo) where U.G.G faced other universities all over the region, and how the club would rent a studio in Kichijoji (Musashino, Tokyo) every June. During summer, the club would travel to other parts of the country, dance till late at night, and enjoy exotic food. Towards the end of the year, U.G.G would hold parties for its graduating members. Consequently, U.G.G is often considered as one of the most active and fun clubs on campus.
During our conversation, Shinzui revealed that he was actually, for a long time, the sole non-Japanese member in the dance club. Curiosity took over and I decided to ask him to share his story.
Sneak peek of UGG’s usual practice
As a freshman, Shinzui had originally wanted to join the university’s wind orchestra. However, he had been turned down as they had enough members at the time. After attending the extracurricular orientation, Shinzui had contemplated trying his second choice – U.G.G – where two walls stood in his way: cultural differences and inexperience in dancing. Although Shinzui had been able to speak Japanese, cultural differences had restricted his ability to get involved in Japanese banter, among other instances. Furthermore, unlike Shinzui, most of the past members had had prior dancing experience. In order to overcome his shortcomings, he increased his Japanese capabilities, devoted a lot of time for practice, and asked for advice from his amiable upperclassmen. As a result of his earnest effort, Shinzui has become able to converse naturally and dance adeptly with his fellow members.
According to Shinzui, there were E-Track students who joined U.G.G but quit after a short while as they were not able to handle the language barrier. Shinzui stressed that “a foreign country will not accommodate you, you need to adopt their customs.” He believes that there is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone and working hard to have fun.
I bumped into Shinzui with his Japanese friends at the station last week. He for sure was enjoying his efforts.
U.G.G meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 16:40 to 19:00 in Lecture Hall 314. Interested students are welcome to come and try it out. Follow Shinzui on Instagram at @jangjinseo0and U.G.G at @ugg_official_tiu