Stuyvesant Hosts Japan Day

The language department celebrated Japan Day in the student cafeteria on May 3 to spread appreciation for Japanese cuisine and culture.

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By Athena Lam

The Stuyvesant Japanese department celebrated Japan Day in the student cafeteria on May 3. The festival is one of the many annual events organized by the language department, and it aimed to spread appreciation for Japanese culture. Established in 2017 by Japanese teacher Chie Helinski, Japan Day was inspired by Japandemonium, an annual celebration of Japanese culture already held in Japanese classes.

The event included sushi, rice, and dumplings cooked by students, a raffle with Japanese candy, and student volunteers dressed as ninjas and sumo wrestlers. Roughly 100 students attended the festival, which was solely organized by Helinski and run by students taking Japanese. Helinski attributed the enthusiasm of the event among the student body to the popularity of Japanese cultural mores such as anime and J-pop.

Japan Day, like other language department events, allows students to immerse themselves in other cultures. “Japan Day is important for the students because everyone has the opportunity to experience the culture, the language, and the cuisine. Attendees will have their fortunes told, and they will meet Ms. Helinski,” Assistant Principal of World Languages Francesca McAuliffe said.

Students in the Japanese program worked on creating different booths, making food, and advertising the event. “I [was] volunteering at the various tables and helping out with the raffle, and as part of the job, I [had] to dress up as a ninja,” sophomore Dario Cipani said. The number of booths compared to last year was smaller, but the students did their best to work with what they had.

The Japanese department is the smallest language department in terms of students who take the course. “It requires everyone in the department to pitch in, […] but ultimately, it is a really great experience for bonding and bringing the school together,” Cipani said. The event required those in the Japanese Honor Society to spearhead the event and make sure that it came to fruition. The experience of putting the event together helped create a tight-knit group among students taking Japanese.

However, the turnout and overall atmosphere of the event were disappointing compared to last year’s. In previous years, 500 or more students attended, but this year’s turnout was down to 100. Last year, 1000 origami cranes were made for the event, and the walls of the cafeteria were decorated with posters that explained different parts of Japanese culture.

However, Helinski did not add these decorations to this year’s event, as she found that most students attending the fair neglected to read the posters and appreciate the cranes. According to Helinski, students were not learning from them, and the hard work of the Japanese students was going to waste. In addition, there was not enough food—which is made by the students themselves—for attendees to eat.

Because of this, Helinski expressed concern for Japan Day next year. “When students do not participate and chip in food, I cannot generate everything myself. We may not have the ability to [host Japan Day],” Helinski said. However, next year, Helinski plans to ensure that students prepare enough food and make more booths with activities and presentations.

Despite the issues revolving the event, attendees enjoyed Japan Day and felt that it enhanced their experience with the culture. “The foods served at Japan Day are all foods that have cultural significance in Japan. Many events like origami and wish making are also important aspects of Japanese culture, so Japan Day was a good way to experience these events,” freshman Ismath Maskura said in an e-mail interview.