Tufts University

Cultural Awareness

Susan NapierFor Tufts students with an interest in Japan, the Japanese Culture Club provides opportunities for both education and entertainment.

Giancarlo Saldana came to Tufts with a desire to deepen an interest in Japanese culture that began at a club in high school. The junior Japanese major is now co-president of Tufts' Japanese Culture Club (JCC), which strives to engage students in both modern and traditional Japanese culture.

"We pride ourselves in saying that we have diversity in our executive board and our members," Saldana says. They include both native Japanese students as well as those who may never have set foot in that country.

"They're very influenced by the language that they're taking," he says of the club's members. "They want to learn more about Japan, not just the language but also the cultures and traditions. So they come to our club with that need."

Susan Napier

Japanese Culture Club sushi brunch, Oct. 2005.

To meet it, the JCC has organized a series of events that immerse participants in cultural experiences both old and new. In December, the group organized its second annual Matsuri festival, which re-created a Japanese street fair with food, festive masks and costumes, and entertainment. Live music included traditional taiko drummers as well as a band playing modern Japanese songs. The event has consistently attracted more than 400 attendees each year.

The JCC's other events include an annual soccer tournament, sushi-making workshops, film screenings and musical performances. The club works closely with other Asian cultural groups at Tufts, as well as the Japanese department, to share information about events—a collaboration that Saldana expects will grow in coming years.

And the club itself is growing as well, tackling increasingly ambitious programming. In early April, the JCC hosted and organized the annual conference for the East Coast Japan America League, an organization that brings together Japanese cultural groups from colleges in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

The conference, "Soft Power: Exporting Japanese Culture," drew about 80 attendees, who listened to panel discussions featuring professors from Tufts and MIT and a marketing executive for a Japanese clothing brand. They also enjoyed musical performances and sampled a wide variety of Japanese cuisine.

"It was a very unique experience," says Saldana.


Second Annual Matsuri Festival, Dec. 8, 2006 (3:02)

Brown University Taiko performs at Tufts, Sept. 30, 2006 (1:10)

Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Photos and video courtesy of the Japanese Culture Club

This story originally ran on Apr. 30, 2007.