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Tokyo on the Charles

Central Square Branch Library Hosts Japanese Cultural Festival

By Abby Y. Fung

Cambridge's Central Square Branch Library combined the celebrations of Japan's Girls' Day with the country's Children's Day by hosting a Japanese Cultural Festival from March 11-16.

Girls' Day, or Hina Matsuri, is March 3, while Boys' Day is celebrated on May 5, explained Faith N. Barcus, director of student life at the Showa Institute.

Students from the Boston-based Showa Institute and the Bunsai Gakuen--which are dedicated to the study of American language and culture, placed their culture's unique food and crafts on exhibit before curious library patrons throughout the week.

Children's librarian Philecia F. Harris said the library decided to combine the two celebrations along with an exhibit of Japanese culture.

"We don't have a very large Japanese-American population here, but [this event] is geared for anyone who wants to know about the culture," Harris said.

Students from the two institutes taught Japanese calligraphy and origami. They also offered samples of rice balls, read aloud an old Japanese folk tale titled "A Wise Old Woman" and piped in the sweet sounds of traditional Japanese music.

The past week was loaded with fun events. Last Monday, a group of approximately 30 after-school students enjoyed a reading of the Japanese children's story, "A Carp for Kimiko." They then constructed carp windsocks.

On Friday, the children were treated to an hour of Japanese stories, songs and origami. Then, last Saturday's event brought adults and children together.

Saturday's event was a kimono reading, which was followed by an invitation to visitors to try on the both an informal kimono and a traditional Japanese wedding gown. They then received Polaroid photos of the themselves in the outfits.

As Zephyr C. Davis molded a paper crane, she said the orgami exhibition was her favorite activity of the evening and that she couldn't wait to go home and teach it to her friends.

Barcus applauded the library for making valuable contributions to the understanding of foreign cultures.

"[I think this is] a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness of different cultures to adults [as well as] younger children," Barcus said.

Although one probably would expect the library to host an Irish Cultural Week in honor of St. Patrick's Day, Harris said the library held an Irish celebration last year and decided to promote a different culture this year.

"Our mission is education and information, [especially] hands-on information instead of just reading books," she said. "We also want to make the library a fun place for children."

In addition to wowing Cambridge residents of all ages, the students presenting the exhibit also benefited from the experience.

Yuko Tanabe said it provided a "good opportunity to volunteer" his talents to help better the community.

And Tomoko Saifo explained the event helped him become better-acquainted with American culture, too.

"[This is] fun, but I have to explain things in English, so it is also very hard," Saifo said.

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