Japanese Culture Club Transitions to Online

Japanese+Culture+Club%27s+logo.

Courtesy Photo from Japanese Culture Club.

Japanese Culture Club’s logo.

Authentic cooking, traditional storytelling, classic film and much more. All Japanese, of course. 

That’s what the Japanese Culture Club seeks to offer to the students, faculty and community of EvCC. Like with all things, this mission has become more difficult due to quarantine, but their community remains strong.

The Japanese Culture Club seeks to be a “Bridge between East & West” says Heather Uhl, advisor to the JCC and EvCC faculty librarian. The group seeks to bring people interested in Japanese culture together and to educate them along the way. Through sharing of Japanese culture with the media, food and tradition; club members are taught the historical and cultural importance of what they are experiencing. “We seek to learn, share, and foster cultural appreciation. Not appropriation,” said Uhl.

Japanese Culture Club holds a booth at Sakuracon 2019. (Courtesy Photo from Japanese Culture Club.)

Before the closing of EvCC and subsequent extracurriculars due to Covid-19, the Japanese Culture Club had a very strong presence both on, and off-campus. The club hosted 30 to 40 members consistently and held the Japanese Anime and Manga Arts Festival on campus for 5 years, servicing 300 people over 2 days each year. Beyond the school’s borders, the club has hosted a booth at Sakura-Con, the Seattle anime convention, to bring people who are interested in Japanese culture to both join their club and to enroll in EvCC. As well, the club has presented at high schools to use interest in Japanese culture to bring people to EvCC that might not have attended college otherwise.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantine, the club’s functions have had to change greatly. Physical meetings, tea ceremonies, conventions and festivals all became unavailable very suddenly. “Discord [an online chat service] was our saving grace”, said Heather Uhl. Through the use of Discord, as well as Zoom for those that weren’t as comfortable with Discord, the club was able to keep its weekly meetings going. 

Though it was hard at first, the club found ways to continue to perform some of their activities and events. The club continues to host its Japanese storytelling sessions, now made easier on club members as the digital space has allowed them to pre-record their performances. As well, the club advisor was able to work with the Tsubaki Shrine, the only ordained Shinto shrine of its kind in the region, to take the club members on a digital tour of the locale. 

Oliver Jeremiah Fernandez, a past club president, even recreated the Japanese Cultural Resource Center in the online service, Gather, with the help of other members. The digital JCRC allowed club members to walk around in a digital version of their physical meeting space to help simulate the feeling of all meeting together again. “It meant a lot to all of us,” said Heather Uhl. 

Japanese Cultural Resource Center recreated in Gather. (Screenshot by Ethan Saur.)

The club has even found ways of hosting events like it used to. Through the use of Zoom meetings, the club is bringing back its community storytelling. Upcoming is the club’s “Kaidan: Strange Stories from Japan”, to be hosted over zoom on May 21 for anyone in the EvCC Community.

Though the transition to a digital medium has been hard for the club, as it has been for many of us, the club remains strong in its practices and teachings and encourages anyone interested to join.

For more information on club activities and joining, please contact Heather Uhl at [email protected].

More information on Kaidan can be found here https://www.everettcc.edu/calendar/2021/04/kaidan-strange-stories-japan