Fun and games at Tomodachi club Matsuri

Tomadachi Club members raced to set up for their evening Matsuri event in the Student Union Building of South Puget Sound Community College on the late afternoon of June 3, 2011. “Matsuri” is Japanese for “festival.” As well as being a benefit for Red Cross efforts to help survivors of recent disasters in Japan, the event was meant to be a fun and interactive presentation of components of Japanese culture.

A vibrant evening of games, performance, and food awaited club members and attendees. By 5 p.m., hotel pans lined tables set up in front of room 119. Hostess Kimber Lee Temptress descended the SUB in a light blue kimono, and two giant taiko drums rested in the center of the mainstage. Elaborately hand-painted, alternately red and green paper lanterns crisscrossed the ceiling.

President of Tomadachi Club Lisa Foster said of the long-term preparation,“ Initially we started discussing it at the beginning of the year, but some other things had to take priority,” such as the relief benefit fashion show Tomadachi Club put on in May. “But we booked the Taiko performance pretty early in advance. So I will say it took about 4 months or so to plan.”

Club member John Leighton was in charge of the game station at Matsuri, set up near the Staff Lounge and television room corner of the Commons. A children’s pool was brought in through the doors nearest the Diversity and Equity Center. It was promptly filled with a few inches of water and several brightly-colored water balloons for a fishing game called “balloon yo-yo.”

A ring toss game set up adjacent to the fishing game had gold coin tokens on top of the target pole. Leighton said “The coin is a sort of consolation prize,” but could be more if used to play the 1000-string game. According to Leighton, “You get a coin, drop it in the donation box and pull a string. A few of the strings will lead to a prize.”

At 5:30, Kimber Lee approached the podium, introducing herself as “the hostess with the mostess.” She announced that the program had begun and reminded the audience that “all proceeds go to relief efforts in Japan.” A choreographed group performance by Nami Yasuoka, Ayo Agena, Taiyo Ogata, Kango Katzer, Sunshine Ota, Preston Crawford, and Scott Takai followed.

Foster said,“The student performances were a suggestion from the club. We did the fashion show a few weeks earlier,” at the previous Japan relief event. “The Soranbushi dance was also done by club members who performed it at the International Dinner,” she said. To make sure Matsuri held true to its name in terms of its array of festivities, Tomadachi Club members decided “we just wanted to bring both of those things back,” according to Foster.

Applause gave way to the formation of a buffet line for the freshly arrived yakisoba, rice dishes, sushi, and salad. Vegetarian options and seaweed salad, in addition to the chicken dishes and garden salad, assured that everyone could find something to eat. Foster gave catering credit to Fuji Japanese Restaurant in downtown Olympia. A donation can sat at the end of the buffet line. There were also baked items such as brownies being sold for donation, as well as toys and accessories being auctioned off as part of the fundraising effort involved in the function.

The buffet closed until 7 p.m. for a drum performance by Nancy Ozaki and Gary Tsujimoto of One World Taiko in Seattle, WA. They performed both ancient and modern compositions while teaching the audience about what goes into taiko drumming, from drum names—to learning to play—to more spiritual concepts of “ki” that go into proper taiko technique.

Ozaki explained that “ki” is Japanese for “your spirit, the energy that everyone has that keeps them alive” before they played a composition of the same name written by Tsujimoto. Two different sets of audience members were invited up to play simplified versions of taiko pieces with One World Taiko before a fashion show reprisal that concluded the entire event.

Foster was pleased with the total outcome of Matsuri and is grateful to those who contributed either by putting it on or attending.

“Thank you to Aki sensei for being supportive, Cindy Uhrich for being so patient with us and working with us. Thank you to the advisors who advised the event (since Aki couldn’t attend it); thank you to everyone who helped/attended the event,” said Foster.