UNA student group brings Japanese music, food to students

Musicians perform at JUMP sakura festival April 18

UNA organization Japanese University Meal Project hosted its annual Sakura Festival at the amphitheater on campus last week. In Japan, a Sakura Festival is a viewing party of the blooming cherry blossoms on trees.

“We are celebrating spring,” said Nyki Pastuszka, secretary of JUMP. “While we don’t have the trees, we can still get together with music and food. JUMP is all about bringing people together to a cultural experience.”

The organization cooked homemade authentic Japanese food, provided a calligraphy demonstration table and taught festival-goers how to do origami. The members also played live music.

JUMP fried up takoyaki (octopus dumplings), taki soba (Japanese lo-mein), and dango (rice cakes). The club members had been practicing for weeks cooking, folding origami and making calligraphy, said Darrell Coble, president of JUMP.

Coble said he was taught how to write calligraphy from a fellow member, Taka Hamato.

“My partner is one of the top-rated calligraphy artists in the Japanese area,” Coble said. “If you think of martial arts, he would be a black belt in calligraphy. As much as he says he isn’t good, he is just being modest.”

The origami demonstrations were by JUMP members who handed out the paper creatures and shapes while also teaching people who wanted to learn how to do it, said JUMP member Erika Oman. They carefully folded the decorated paper into cats, cranes and star boxes.

“I learned from some people in JUMP during a fundraiser last year,” Oman said.

Oman’s demonstration partner, Autumn Harris, said JUMP is a way to meet great people.

“Ever since childhood, I have been interested in Japanese culture,” Harris said. “It’s the best thing that has happened to me in my college life.”

Some attendees said they enjoyed the event.

“I love festivals, and this was the perfect day for it,” said Elizabeth Marmann, a film and digital media student who brought her son, Curry, to the festival. “I like the music, and he liked the origami.”

JUMP members want to let UNA students know everyone is welcome to be a member, said Takayuki Kashiwazaki, vice president of JUMP.

“We are always looking for new members,” Coble said.