Nara JETNet 23rd Event
International Arts Festival
On June 22, 2008, Nara JETNet, in conjunction with the town of Kawanishi, held its 23rd international event: the International Arts Festival at the Kawanishicho Culture Hall. Nara JETNet is a committee which plans events to promote cultural exchange and understanding between the members of the JET Program and citizens of Nara Prefecture. The organizers of JETNet’s events are the 5 Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) in Nara City, as well as 1 Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) from the Nara Board of Education Office, while the members are made up of the members of the JET program located all over Nara Prefecture. This event involved over 400 Japanese participants of various ages and backgrounds and over 50 members of the JET Programme, who presented cultural aspects of various countries, many different paintings, photographs, and other works of art, and a multitude of interesting performances.
After brief greetings from Nara JETNet, the event officially began at 1pm with the opening of the country booths, the interactive activities, and the art gallery. The country booths consisted of England, France, Canada, America, Native America, Brazil, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. To get everyone involved in the culture exchange, there were also many interactive activities, including a henna tattoo activity, a belly dance workshop, a capoeira workshop, a one minute masterpiece competition, a tea ceremony activity, a juggling workshop and a face painting activity, all of which let attendees have a firsthand look at a wide range of culturally specific experiences.
At 3pm, the activities, art exhibition, and activities ended, and the guests made their way into the Cosmos Hall for the performance half of the event. Taiko, belly dance, rock music, capoeira, acrobatics, and a magic show created a wonderfully entertaining lineup, while simultaneously providing viewers a window into another culture than they may not otherwise have a chance to see, such as the traditional Maori “Poi” performance from New Zealand, and the haunting melodies of the didgeridoo from Australia.
Though the event was aimed to expand the international cultural understanding of the citizens of Nara prefecture, it has the added benefit of allowing the presenting JET members a chance to learn things about Japanese culture from the experience of the attendees. Various reports from the attendees commented on how surprised they were that some of the parts of the event, which were from Japanese culture (the taiko drumming and the tea ceremony), allowed them to connect more closely with the foreign community of JETs. They were positively delighted to see non-Japanese people taking such an active interest in Japanese culture.
Overall, the response from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and many expressed their wish that they had more time to experience everything the event had to offer. Several mentioned their surprise at how friendly and amiable the JETs were, and how they made the experience all the more enjoyable. According to the feedback from both the Japanese attendees and the JET participants, the event was successful in providing the cultural exchange it aimed for, while proving enjoyable for all who were involved. We would once again like to thank the aid and support of the town of Kawanishi, as well as all the staff of the Kawanishicho Culture Hall.