The Japanese Student Association held its annual Japan Night, which depicted the rich cultural heritage and traditions of their country, last Saturday. An integral part of the UB community since its foundation in 1996, the JSA put on a play to demonstrate one of the most important components of Japanese culture: family.
The play was written and directed by Masato Uenishi, a physical therapy graduate student from Damian College. Uenishi has been a part of JSA since 2003 and has been directing Japan Night since 2008.
"My primary objective is to have fun with the audience," Uenishi said. "I [prefer comedy] because the actors are enjoying themselves as much as the audience."
Using comedy as a medium, the play portrayed the importance of family ties. The play centered on an extended family getting together for a family reunion. But just like any family reunion, there is tension, and this tension soon leads to conflict between the family members.
The grandfather watches helplessly as his family fights around him. In order to instill an understanding of the importance of family in his relatives, he prepares an elaborate scheme with his clever butler, Sebastian.
The grandfather suddenly dies of a heart attack as he tries to stop the feud, and Sebastian, the butler, announces that he will read the will. The grandfather made a series of questions that his relatives must answer in order to retrieve the will. The relatives work together throughout the process. They each use their individuality to help the collective effort.
Upon finding the will, they realize the importance of family bonds. As they recognize this, the grandfather returns, revealing his grand scheme.
The audience was very pleased with the show. Samantha Melendez, a senior management major, loved the drama involved.
"I liked the dramatics…it was very funny," Melendez said. "I'm not part of JSA, but I can definitely relate to their family aspect."
According to Chris Streb, a senior health human services and psychology major, the show was a success.
"I loved how they [brought] different cultures and the conflict between different cultures [into the show]," Streb said. " It's a bigger message here on the college campus because there is a lot of diversity."
According to David Cobb, a sophomore linguistics major and a participant, the family theme is essential in the present times.
"A lot of families these days are separated…if not nonexistent….our play shows that family membership [is necessary and important]," Cobb said.
Fellow participant Emmanuell Mcbryde, a junior theater major, agreed.
"It makes you think about the deeper aspects of your own family," Mcbryde said. "It's a life lesson…and hopefully people don't have to go to the extreme of their grandfather having to play a trick on them for them to realize this."
After the show, JSA held its annual Japan Night Festival, called Matsuri, in the Student Union, which included several booths of traditional Japanese food as well as games and other activities.
The coordinators of Japan Night began organizing the event well over a year ago. The dedication and the enthusiasm really did show during the event.
"We began planning around September," said Kosuke Benny Higo, JSA vice-president. "They had the idea [for the play] about a year ago…It takes a lot of time…the last two months were very hectic."
According to Cobb, it took sincere dedication.
"It has to be something you love…it has to be willing," Cobb said. "You have to want to be in it…to learn about the culture."
JSA encourages and welcomes all cultures into their association.
"JSA is open not only to UB students but the community as well," said Jessica Senaga, JSA president. "[JSA] spreads Japanese culture not just throughout UB but throughout the [entire] Buffalo community."
Senaga, who graduates this May, hopes the club will continue to develop. "I hope that it keeps growing," Senaga said. "I hope they gain recognition within UB."