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Ringing in the New Year at Miami’s own Shinnenkai Festival

The warm scent of chicken, dumplings and other homemade cuisine hung over the crowd of students packed into the Armstrong Student Center’s Fritz Pavilion. The aroma wound its way through the numerous booths set up throughout the room, wrapping itself around brightly colored paper decorations and ornate ceremonial garb. 

On Friday Feb. 28, the Fritz Pavilion was transformed into Miami’s Shinnenkai Festival. The festival, hosted by the Japanese Culture and Language Club (JCLC) and Miami Activities and Programming (MAP), was complete with different stations that visitors could explore and learn about different Japanese traditions. 

Before entering, guests were given a passport to the 11 stations and three raffle tickets for the raffle prizes. Each station on the passport would give guests a stamp when they completed the activity at the station. After six stamps, guests could get free food and after they completed all 11, they got an extra raffle ticket. 

One of the stations was Taiko drumming. Taiko is a type of traditional Japanese drumming, which brings in dancing and martial arts movements to accompany the drumming. Senior chemical engineering major Tori Jones said that participating in the Shinnenkai festival allows for performance opportunities for the group as well as people interested in joining. 

“It’s a good way to show off, but also we get a chance to have people play our drums and interact with them. It’s a good way to promote it and it’s just so much fun,” Jones said. 

Another station was Omikuji, which are Japanese fortune-telling papers found at shrines and temples across Japan. Guests picked a stick with a number on it out of a box and the number would earn them a corresponding fortune paper. The paper included fortunes for love, school, work and travel, as well as lucky numbers.

During the event, both the Taiko Club and the Fusion dance group put on percussive performances.

“I have a very keen interest in Japanese culture, so I was really interested in coming tonight. I really enjoyed the fortune station,” said first-year computer science major Alex King.

At the food station, students could enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine, which included Japanese fried chicken called karaage, vegetable spring rolls and dumplings. 

Miami’s JCLC offers numerous chances throughout the year for students interested in Japanese culture to engage with it. Their next sizable event will be a workshop teaching students about ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, April 15 at 5:30 in Upham 163.

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