On the evening of Nov. 22, Portland State’s Japanese Student Society paid homage to all things Japanese with a series of performances and a variety of events catered toward honoring the customs, traditions and culture of Japan.

As the long line of guests that was crammed into the third floor of the Smith Memorial Student Union slowly filed into the ballroom, those in attendance were urged to try the selection of Japanese cuisine made available, from takoyaki to rice crackers and much more. The event kicked off with a slew of activities; from a table dedicated to Japanese calligraphy to a booth geared toward providing information regarding Japanese culture and traditional games to pass the time, a heavy atmosphere of tradition and heritage filled the ballroom.

“I think that in American culture, we have a tendency to do away with tradition. Considering how relatively young the U.S. is historically, we often miss out on traditional art forms, for example. One great thing about Japan Night is the chance to experience such a wide variety of traditional performance arts,” said Zac Bradberry, former co-vice president of the JSS.

The passion, effort and discipline poured into each and every performance was clear. The opening musical performance by Portland Taiko rippled through the air with visceral acuity, the intense bass rumbling of the heavy traditional Japanese drums drawing inspiration from a rich and vibrant cultural heritage. Up next, PSU Aikido demonstrated the noncompetitive martial art of Aikido, geared toward self-defense, in a presentation that emphasized the importance of fluidity over brawn. Mitsuki Dazai was next to appear onstage, bringing the audience back hundreds of years in a masterful demonstration of the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument with a distinct, exotic sound.

“…I found Miss Mitsuki Dazai’s koto performance very impressive. It was one of the more traditional performances of the night, but it was amazing to hear such great applause from an audience of so many young people. That must mean something,” Bradberry said.

The next few performances brought the crowd roaring back to the present, from high-energy J-pop tunes and accompanying dances to heartfelt vocal performances of modern Japanese ballads and one seriously awesome display of breakdancing prowess. The audience was given a brief respite in the form of a Manzai demonstration, a genre of Japanese comedy akin to slapstick, before the night’s festivities drew to a close with an excellent performance from the JSS Soranbushi team. Soranbushi, traditional Japanese music with heavy sea-faring roots, depicts the movement of ocean waves as Japanese fishermen go about their work through dance. On that note, Japan Night came to a triumphant finish, leaving some guests with an appetite for more.

“…Throughout our lives, we’re always kind of just told what to be aware of in regards to other cultures and people, rather than experiencing a sense of their history for ourselves,” said Ben Himes, a student of Warner Pacific College who attended Japan Night. “Tonight, there was a real, honest air of Japanese culture throughout and I thought that was awesome. We weren’t being forced to digest all this information…it was a much more honest and raw glimpse into the traditions and heritage of a truly unique culture, and I’d like to see more of that.”

The earnest desire to impart some understanding of Japanese culture was very much a conscious motivator on behalf of the JSS leading up to the event.

“I hope they can get at least a glimmer of what Japanese culture is really all about”, said Heather Aplington, a Japanese major at PSU and leader of the JSS Soranbushi team. “There’s so much more that could be shown, but we just don’t have the time for that.”

The JSS staunchly promotes intercultural awareness, and that heartfelt sentiment could be felt with resounding clarity in each and every performance of the night. In this regard, it was a celebration of not only Japanese culture, but also an optimistic plea to embrace cultures and people from all corners of the world.

“Though you can draw various cultural commonalities between Japan and the United States, it usually seems that the two nations have so many differences, as well,” Bradberry said. “One thing I love about experiencing other cultures is that you gain so many opportunities to learn and consider new perspectives! I hope for other people to have this same feeling.”