On Saturday, April 9, Brandeis’ Japanese Student Association (JSA) held its annual Harumatsuri (spring festival) in the Intercultural Center (ICC) from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The event drew in over 100 students, as it usually does, making Harumatsuri JSA’s biggest event of the year.
The popularity of Harumatsuri is no secret as its main attraction is the one thing college students desire most (besides good grades): homemade food. JSA definitely pulled through with a ton of delicious Japanese foods skillfully managed by the head chef, Yuchen He ’18. Each of the foods has its own station to which the visitors would travel around, marking off their brochures as they go. Among the prepared dishes were Inarizushi (Inari sushi), which is sushi rice in a fried tofu skin pouch (inari), corn cooked and seared in soy sauce, kenchinjiru, a soup made with a variety of vegetables, matcha ice cream, which is made with Japanese matcha (green tea) powder and vanilla ice cream, curry and rice, which greatly differs from other types of curry due to its thickness and distinct flavor, and cold tofu, served with toppings like soy sauce and chives. Refreshments of tea and other Japanese drinks similar to the aloe vera drinks available in the C-store were provided.
However, the main food event of Harumatsuri was the Spicy Ramen challenge in which 20 brave contestant took on ramen in He’s specially made spicy broth created from boiling habanero peppers in white vinegar. Held in two rounds of 10 people each, the crowd gathered around the table to watch as the contestants consumed the flaming ramen as quickly as possible, their face taking on a bright red shade in the heat of battle. The last round concluded as the finalist each drained their second bowl of the spicy ramen, earning a prize and the honor of victory.
JSA’s Harumatsuri also featured a variety of other clubs and components such as a Japanese Language table, typical festival games, demonstrations from the martial arts clubs and the anime club. People could also try on many colorful yukata, traditional Japanese spring and summer festival attire. Current JSA president Meg Kobashi ’18 explained that this year’s Harumatsuri was a milestone since it involved collaboration with many other clubs, and though it was a challenge to coordinate everything, the event ending up coming together nicely. Among the various club events, the karate club performed a demonstration of their martial art style and the Japanese language table had activities that introduced the basics of the language.
Harumatsuri is JSA’s biggest event of the year since it is annual, and it also serves to show the importance of spring in Japanese culture. The tradition of Harumatsuri in Japan is part of many celebrations surrounding the beginning of spring, such as Setsubun, also known as the bean-throwing festival, and hanami, which are parties throw for viewing the cherry blossoms. Spring is an important time in Japanese culture, as it accompanies the lunar New Year, and thus comes with the idea of cleansing the previous year of bad spirits and “blessing” the coming year.
The Japanese Student’s Association has hosted many other events throughout the year including Ikebana (the art of flower arrangement), New Year celebration and the recent Japan week. Japan week was a four-day event in collaboration with other clubs, consisting of a cooking night with the cooking club, dumplings and snacks night with TSA, Anime night with the anime club and finally a restaurant outing to Gyukaku, a Japanese restaurant in Boston. With the election of a new e-board, JSA looks forward to another year of exciting events.