My name is Joe Takahashi. I am a Japanese student studying in the U.S. for 6 years now. Currently studying journalism at Indiana University.
There are many indoor and outdoor soccer teams in Indiana, but only one of them is a Japanese team. Zipangu is a Columbus, Indiana-based indoor soccer team and now the team is preparing to go to the back to back championship at Midwestern Japan Cup.
Although Indiana University Bloomington has more than 45000 students, there are only few Japanese students. The university offers Japanese classes, but the culture of Japan is very little known in the Bloomington community. Japanese Student Association at Indiana University (JSA) is a student organization that promotes and spreads Japanese culture around IU campus.
“JSA strives to promote greater awareness and deeper understanding of Japan to the IU community. JSA speaks for the Japanese community, welcomes diversity and cooperation with other student organization,” JSA’s Constitution said. JSA accomplishes this goal through events that feature some aspects of Japanese culture. In the last school year, JSA had some successful events such as sushi making party and onigiri (rice ball) making workshop.
While JSA’s mission is stated in its constitution, there is a challenge that it has been facing for more than a year: JSA does not have as many members as other similar organizations that represent certain countries such as China. The fact that there are simply way more Chinese students on IU campus is certainly one of the reasons why, but another big reason is that JSA once had to break up.
“JSA had been registered as IU’s official student organization for years,” said Joanna Dixon, the vice president of JSA. “But there was a miscommunication between the previous president and the one before her and we could not register as an official student organization for two semesters.” Members stopped following the organization that could not do any events or activities and fewer and fewer people remember JSA.
After one year of struggle, JSA finally once again registered as the official student organization of the university in the fall 2016, but it has been facing a challenge of recruitment. For the organization that once disappeared and only had a few board members, it has not been easy to get members. Bigger organizations with more members are able to promote themselves more effectively since they have more budgets that were made from events and membership fee, but because JSA did not have any members or a lot of budget in the fall 2016 could not spend much money on their promotion. For instance, at the involvement fare, many organizations handed out free gifts with their names on them so people will remember the organizations, but JSA did not have anything to give. Despite the lack of money and resources, people who had been interested in Japanese culture and looking for the organization like JSA still joined. The rise of JSA started there.
JSA kept recruiting more members and by the end of the spring semester 2017, they had about 25 members. It is still a small number, but it was a progress for JSA. To make the organization bigger, JSA decided to take a different approach this fall semester.
JSA traditionally hosted a free barbecue at the end of the school year to show their gratitude to the members, but the board decided to host the free bar barbecue at the beginning of the academic year and use it as a “hook” in recruitment.
“I suggested it because I thought it would be more effective,” said Sho Nakayama, the event coordinator of JSA. “I mean, who doesn’t like free food right.”
On Sept. 10, JSA hosted its call out meeting with free barbecue at Tulip Tree apartment complex. Nakayama and Risa Nakano, the secretary of JSA, arrived there and started preparing at 9 a.m.
“The weather is good, temperature is not bad, I think a lot of people will come today,” Nakano said.
As Nakano expected, people led by the delicious smell started to join. Chips, meats and vegetables all started to disappear in people’s stomach and big smile was on everyone’s face. By 3 p.m., all the food that JSA prepared were gone and more than 50 people signed up for the membership.
“I know that not all of these people signed up will actually pay the membership and become a member, but I think the barbecue was a huge success,” Dixon said.
About three weeks after the barbecue, JSA hosted Aki Matsuri (autumn festival), its second event of the year. It featured traditional Japanese dance, food and activities. Attendees enjoyed traditional food such as takoyaki, yakisoba and okonomiyaki, but what they enjoyed the most was Bon Odori, the Japanese folk dance. Most members and attendees dancing to the unique slow rhythm in one big circle looked just like the one we can see in Japan.
Both two events I followed were very successful and it seemed like more people are interested in Japanese culture now. JSA is planning to host about 10 more events throughout the year striving to promote greater awareness and deeper understanding of Japan.