Sitting around a table strewn with origami Pikachus and exotic, colorful candy, it’s clear what’s occurring – it’s the Japanese Culture Club in its natural habitat.
The Japanese Culture Club was revamped last year by Chanel Lopez, a sophomore communication major from St. George, who took the reins of the club and has transformed it into a one-stop-shop for all things Japanese. Lopez arranges weekly meetings where everything from Japanese cuisine to history is mulled over by the bright-eyed club members.
“This club, as the name suggests, is a place to learn about Japanese culture,” Lopez said. “Whether it be the language or the holidays they celebrate, we have meetings about Japanese fashion. We do a lot of origami. We have a lot of lessons on [Japanese] history –why certain traditions are the way they are.”
Lopez worked with Dixie State University to pioneer an annual study abroad opportunity for club members and students interested in Japanese culture. Last summer, two club members, including Lopez, traveled to Japan to get elbows deep into the culture.
“[The trip] was just amazing,” Lopez said. “I think the best thing for me was the home stays. We stayed with a family and they would teach us certain things or take us around. [The families] just taught us so much about everything. There is so much to learn there.”
Lopez took the knowledge and experience she gained from her travels back to the club members, and members are now reaping the benefits. Ryder Boren, a community member from St. George, joined the club to gain access to more information about the Japanese culture he covets.
“I joined because I’m interested in Japanese-type things, and I’m trying to learn Japanese,” Boren said. “Eventually I want to go to Japan, even live there for a while. [This club] is a good place to branch out and get to know new people.”
The club members mutually agree that sharing a love for Japanese culture has brought about new friendships and created a bond amongst club goers.
“There are no Japanese people in this club,” said Clarence Frost, a sophomore communication major from Compton, California. “There are Polynesian, Hispanics, natives; no Japanese, though, but we are all here because of a common factor. I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Frost hopes to incorporate Japanese elements into his films he plans on creating, and he said the club helps harbor his passion.
“I’m going into film making,” Frost said. “I really would like to go into martial arts film making. I have this fetish about doing old time samurai karate movies.”
Lopez said being involved in the Japanese Culture Club has not only given her an outlet for her love of Japanese things, but it has also helped her be informed about events happening on campus and given her insight to a culture that isn’t her own.
“I think the best thing about [the club] is that it gets people into a group with other people so they can interact about something they have in common,” Lopez said. “There are so many things about Japanese culture that are so interesting but different. Knowing things about another culture just opens your eyes. It helps you to be more open-minded.”