Culture Night Celebrates Japanese Language

Group and solo acts entertained an audience of family and friends with renditions of Japanese pop and rock ballads, martial arts demonstrations, humorous skits and informative PowerPoint presentations at UC Irvine’s second-annual Japanese Cultural Showcase in Humanities Instructional Building 100 on May 6.
Japanese students from Irvine Valley College, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles joined UCI students in celebrating Japanese culture through various performances and informative presentations.
Beginning last year, UCI’s Japanese language program collaborated with IVC for the showcase. This year, Japanese language students from Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles participated in the variety show that developed from an annual speech contest coordinated by Akemi Morioka, a Japanese language lecturer.
Judy Kimura, one of five UCI Japanese language lecturers, described the history of the cultural showcase that the department hopes will become a UCI tradition.
‘For about five years we had an annual speech contest which was only for UCI students,’ Kimura said. ‘When we were doing the speech contest, someone would do a funny skit or play the guitar during intermission. So we had this transition.
‘[Last year] we decided to change the focus a little bit. IVC Japanese teachers hoped to participate in it, as well. So what we did is open it up to all community members in Southern California from ages 18 on, to do anything related to Japanese.’
The event allows students to enjoy and present Japanese culture and entertainment for the community outside of the classroom.
‘[The event] allows students to show a different side than they show in class,’ Kimura said. ‘The [only] requirement was that performances utilize Japanese in some way.’
Apart from musical performances and humorous skits, the program retained an element of its historic roots with a number of speeches.
Five judges presided over the event and distributed awards. The judges included professor of Asian and Asian-American Studies at Cal State Long Beach Yoko Pusavat, former chairman of Hitachi Chemical Research Center Hiroshi Sumiyama and LeRon Harrison, a graduate student in the East Asian languages and culture department.
Award winners received gift certificates to Mitsuwa Marketplace of Costa Mesa, courtesy of Stanley Electric of Irvine.
Two UCI students received awards for their performances. The award for Most Fluent Japanese Language Performance went to Kendall Stuart, a third-year Japanese major. Chrislyn Lynton, an undeclared major, received the award for Best Musical Performance.
Recognition for Best Acting went to Michael Roberts, Matthew Martinez and Grace Lin of IVC for their original skit entitled ‘Two Ninja.’
The Most Informative Performance award went to Serop Gharibian of IVC for a demonstration of Kabuki, a form of Japanese theater. Stephen Christian of IVC was the Most Inspiring Performance award recipient for his speech, ‘The Will Written in Japanese.’ Tim Thein, Rose Chen, Jesly Ho and Diana Lin received the Originality award for a multimedia presentation reflecting influence of kami-shibai, a traditional Japanese form of storytelling using paper.
Students from Cal State Los Angeles also brought home awards. Sean Malloy, Chris Doria and Naomi Ikeda were awarded Most Humorous Performance for a skit that also incorporated an informative PowerPoint presentation about Japanese culture. Ronald Libago of Cal State Los Angeles was also recognized by the judges and given a special award for his outstanding performance of the song ‘Ashita ga aru sa.’
Ethan Nguyen, a second-year information and computer science major, enjoyed the event.
‘The presentations are done really well. You can tell [the students] put a lot of work into [their performances],’ Nguyen said.
The UCI Center for Asian Studies provided some funding to make the event possible. Mitsuwa Marketplace of Costa Mesa provided refreshments after the show.