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Balancing School and Clubs: Japanese Winter Festival

Balancing School and Clubs: Japanese Winter Festival

A photo of a girl getting the obi wrapped around her kimono.
Japanese Winter Festival attendees tried on kimonos with the help of the Toronto Kimono Club.

Participating in clubs while staying on top of schoolwork is a delicate balancing act. Throughout January, my professors have touted the beginning of the semester as an ideal time to get ahead on coursework. But with two term tests this past week, getting ahead on assignments is the last thing on my mind! In addition to a barrage of tests, this Saturday was the University of Toronto Japan Association (UTJA)’s largest event of the year, the Japanese Winter Festival (冬祭り). While the weekend left me in major need of catch-up sleep, I also witnessed all the steps involved in making a community event come to life.

Delicious Suzu Castella (鈴カステラ), Japanese sponge cake!

Friday began with transforming a friend’s apartment into a food assembly line. From 11 AM to 11 PM, UTJA executive team members worked to make balls of Castella cake, inari sushi (rice wrapped in deep fried tofu), and Japanese baked sweet potato in bulk. With the help of four rice cookers and J-Pop blasting in the background, we managed to fill up all of our Tupperware containers to the brim by the end of the night. With over 900 people interested in the event on Facebook and promises of food for guests, we did not want to disappoint!

A poster that says Winter Festival in Japanese. Paper flowers adorn the poster.
My teammates and I were quite proud of this poster!

A photo of tarts covered in whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

A photo of a naginata fight, surrounded by spectators.
Performances by the U of T Naginata Club were definitely one of the highlights of this weekend’s Japanese Winter Festival.

Early on Saturday morning, the team assembled at New College’s William Doo Auditorium. What seemed like an overzealous amount of tissue paper flowers ended up being just enough to embellish the walls for a festive space. The day featured performances from U of T’s Naginata Club, origami with UTFOLD, the opportunity to try on a kimono, and calligraphy with the help of Japan clubs from other Ontario universities such as Western and York. Witnessing the amount of collaboration involved in making the event come together for students at the University of Toronto, and people in the Toronto community emphasized to me the importance of every role when working as a team. It put a smile on my face to see young children enjoying the food we spend the night creating and helped make all the work worth it.
While the Winter Festival may have resulted in many hours of lost sleep and an all-nighter on Sunday, I am glad that I got to play a role in making the event come to life!

A photo of a sheet of paper with various Japanese characters written on it.
Western University’s Japanese Student Association taught calligraphy to event attendees.
A photo of the Karuta laid out on a table.
Karuta is a Japanese playing card game. It’s often played in Japanese elementary schools, but I testify that it is fun for all ages!

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