On June 24th, we had the 6th Okurayama International Student Forum 2017 at Okurayama Memorial Hall in Yokohama. The students from three Japanese Universities (Yokohama City University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Keio University) and the students from Harvard University joined the forum and enjoyed lectures, a workshop and a social gathering. When students from Harvard University arrived at the hall, we Japanese students greeted them while being a little nervous. As they were sociable, we were able to start a friendly chat in no time. Before the beginning of the forum, we told each other about ourselves. I got to know that they had various majors and various purpose of their visit to Japan. A student studying Politics at Harvard University told me that he was doing an internship at the National Diet of Japan and another student majoring in Biology was joining summer school at RIKEN (a research institute in Japan) during their stay in Japan. I have gotten much encouragement from hearing their activeness.
The topic for this forum was Japanese traditional performing arts “Kabuki”. Although it’s one of the most famous Japanese traditional cultures, there are few Japanese people who know well about Kabuki, particularly among the young generation. Thus, both Japanese and Harvard students must have felt that it was extraordinary. The first lecture started with Seiji Kasai, an announcer and a commentator for traditional performing arts, and Mark Ohshima, a Kabuki researcher and a translator. They gave us a lecture about “What is Kabuki?” including the video of Kabuki stage and their witty narrative. We learned that each dialogue and behavior performed by kabuki actors has its own meaning. Then, two speakers told us that although kabuki has many traditions, it also has multiple ways to be performed. They showed us an example for a Kabuki program that is different from an ordinary one, which was “Super Kabuki” based on “One Piece”, a Japanese manga series by Eiichiro Oda. The video of Super Kabuki “One Piece” was shown to us and it surprised all of us by its new, modern and entertainment-focused performance. Western music or costume and modern technology were adopted into the performance and we first felt that it is not Kabuki. However Kasai and Oshima explained to us that this Kabuki has many traditional Kabuki techniques and it is genuine Kabuki. We really got an interest this unexpected modern Kabuki style.
After the first lecture, we enjoyed the Kabuki-dance performed by Botan Ichikawa, classical Japanese dancer and then she gave us a panel session with Kasai and Oshima. During her performance she showed many faces and behaviors according to the story, and she talked about how she thought or felt on the stage and difficulties of Kabuki dance. It was a valuable opportunity for us to know about the backstage of Kabuki by her comments.
I think we usually tend to hesitate to go to Kabuki theatre because it is too formal, is not a culture allows us enjoying casually. Of course Kabuki is an elegant and traditional culture with a certain status, but at the same time it has its origin in an entertainment for common people. The best manner to enjoy Kabuki is “Just enjoy”. Two speakers showed us a lot of chance for understanding one of the Japanese important cultures.
After the lectures and Botan’s lovely performance, we moved on to the workshop and drew something just as we prefer on the brand new sensu (Japanese fan). We exchanged the seusu we painted on with each other and it would be a good memorabilia. The last program was a social gathering with delicious foods and drinks. During the party, Japanese and Harvard students strengthend cultural exchanges each other. We both got interests about language, culture, study or something like that of each other ‘s countries.
On a final note, we were very glad to spend such an exciting and priceless time with friendly students having various cultures and to listen to interesting lecturers. Through the forum, we re-realized how important to get to know people with multiple background and to exchange ideas. We are hugely grateful to Mrs. Yoko Okura and staffs of YCU International Affairs Division for giving us a pleasant opportunity to participate in this forum.
Reported by Mai Itagaki,
Masters 2nd year, Graduate school of Medical Life Science.