Boise’s 10th Annual Japanese Day strikes a balance between collectivism and individualism

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A cloud of lanterns, calligraphy and traditional Japanese food descended upon the Basque Square in Downtown Boise on Labor Day. Filled with cheery music and people, cultural tutorials like the Konmari tidying method to demonstrations presented by Idaho Water Garden and Koi Society were showcased in a line of stalls. The festival is held to increase public cultural awareness and to teach the Boise community about an island nation far away. 

This Monday, Sept 4 marks the 10th annual Japanese Day in Boise. Several Boise State students attended the festival and are involved in the Japan Club on campus, which meets every other Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Student Union Building. 

“As the Japan Club, when we have students come in, we want to show them a community that is not just American-based. We want to show them a college community that can expand their thoughts and feelings on different issues,” said Hannah Pettibone a senior English major who is also the president of the Japan Club this school year. 

The culture clash of individualism versus collectivism is also a prominent part of discussing the different lessons Americans and Japanese may learn from one another. 

“I like how the Japanese culture hosts a lot of festivals and holidays about the community, like White Day or the Cherry Blossom Festival for example,” said Bethany Williford, senior material science major. “Although perhaps they need more individualism and social mobility.” 

Japanese Festival in Downtown Boise. Photo by: Axel Quartarone.

This sentiment of the importance of the individual and the community is often echoed by those who study Japanese culture. 

“I love how it’s so group-oriented, compared to America, where there is the need to stand out,” Pettibone said. “However, Japan could learn from us how not follow the crowd. You need to be your individual self. Americans could learn how to be part of a group. Especially in a school setting, group work never works out correctly, because we want to do our part and not help anyone else. I think by about learning Japanese culture we can learn how to care about the whole and not just the individual,” Pettibone said. 

The fascination and appreciation for Japanese culture often begins through exposure to a diverse range of art styles Japan shares with the Western world. 

“When attending college, I found out they taught all different languages and cultures. I was immediately drawn to Japanese. The passion for the culture began through anime and manga, but I don’t love Japan just for those aspects,” Pettibone said. 

She wasn’t the only student who was first introduced to Japanese culture through anime and manga, as both Jacob Bell and Bethany Williford had similar experiences. 

“When I was a kid there were several aspects of Japanese culture I liked, such as my favorite board game, Go and, like a lot of people, I was into anime as a kid,” said Jacob Bell, senior computer science major while attending the festival. 

“I was also introduced to Japanese culture at a pretty young age,” said Bethany Williford. “I love their peacefulness, beauty and architecture.” 

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