Club informs students on Japanese culture

Abby Lee, Contributing Writer

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The Japanese Culture Club gives people a greater understanding for Japanese culture.

Originally, a club for Japanese culture had yet to be created at Eastern while other schools already had one.

Kofi Bazzell, a junior studio art student, and Shohei Kawanaka, a graduate student studying business management, initially founded the club to start a conversation on Japanese culture and to find more students who speak Japanese.

They were both transfer students looking to meet people, believing that the club would be the best way to do so.

Eventually, they found that there are not too many students who know how to speak Japanese, and students started coming to the lessons starting with the very basics.

They plan to teach such phrases as “nice to meet you” and sentences similar to that.

“There are three alphabets, and we’re starting to go over the first one. Shohei will say a word and everyone will have to try and write that word based on the sound using the new alphabet they have. We have the alphabet written on the board so that they can refer back to the characters,” Bazzell said.

The two of them said they were not really nervous about people wanting to join their club because of the known interest of Japanese culture in America, and there has not been a group that brought everyone together for Japanese culture.

The first lesson Bazzell taught through the club focused on Manga which, according to an article on, said, “the term “manga” can refer to all kinds of cartooning, comics and animation, as it is composed of two kanji – “man”, meaning “whimsical or impromptu,” and “ga”, meaning “pictures”, together forming 漫画.”

In that first lesson, over 50 people showed up willing to learn about the culture.

Bazzell, who said he has been to Japan to study manga, said he started the first event by teaching a Manga workshop.

“Manga is where most of my understanding of Japan comes from,” Bazzell said.

Although this club just started at the beginning of this semester, they said that there have been great turnouts for their meetings.

“The meetings vary, so there are about 10-15 people who come to each meeting,” Kawanaka said.

During the month of March, the club plans to watch Japanese films.

One of their set events will be on April 6 and will consist of members taking a field trip to Champaign, Illinois.

“We’re going to see the Japan House, which basically is a Japanese cultural center, and they’re going to take part in a traditional tea ceremony and join up with the Japanese Culture Club at Parkland College,” Bazzell said. “I was the president there last year and I’m going to teach another workshop for both of the clubs.”

The club is promoted with flyers, but Bazzell and Kawanaka said they are trying to reach people through their events that they put on.

“We have events that are open for everybody, not just members in the Japanese Culture Club,” Bazzell said.

Kawanaka said he is a native speaker of the language, and Bazzell said he started learning the language 10 years ago, so by now he is fluent.

“I started 10 years ago and then I took a break for a long time. I took a two-year program at Parkland and the rest of it was self-study,” Bazzell said. “I then flew myself to Japan to self-study, and that motivated me to go back to school.”

Bazzell said there are plenty of effective ways to learn the language.
He said the purpose of JCC is to help people receive a greater understanding and appreciation for Japanese culture.

“We helped each other with English and Japanese, we work with each other,” Bazzell said. “It’s easier with native friends. It’s easier to speak the language than it is to write or read it.”

Bazzell also said it is important to spread culture and teach about new cultures because you figure out that everyone has similarities within each other.

“It’s a way to bring people closer together,” Bazzell said.

The JCC meets the first Friday of every month at 4 p.m. for their official meetings, and on the first and third Friday of every month at 5 p.m. is when they teach Japanese.

Abby Lee can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].