The growth of the Tohoku University International Festival over the last three decades has truly been something to behold. The 31st installment, held last Sunday at Kawauchi Campus, saw an estimated 6,000 people attend, facilitated by the newly opened East-West subway line.
There were even visitors from cities well outside Sendai. "We reached out to community organisations across Miyagi Prefecture to encourage them to take part in our festival," said TUFSA's Chanon Pornrungroj. "Shiroishi and Matsushima were immediately on board and they've been really supportive. This year, they not only set up booths to promote their cities, they also bused in staff and residents to come and enjoy the day with us."
Twenty six food stalls served popular cuisines from around the world, prepared, cooked and served by Tohoku University students. There was even a special corner featuring Nepalese, Russian and Chinese style dumplings.
"Today has been even more fun than I expected," said Christine D.A.P Wiyono, an environmental studies student from Indonesia. "The variety of food is really good, and I'm enjoying eating food that I don't normally see or get here in Japan!"
Interactive booths, tucked for the first time between food stalls, also saw children and curious adults taking part in the games and dancing.
"This is the first time the Philippines is hosting an interactive corner and the response has been amazing," said John Jewish Dominguez. "We've had a lot of people coming by to try our traditional bamboo dance. It's called Tinikling, and it's a lot like the suzume odori because it mimics a bird hopping."
Supporting the students' efforts were various organisations promoting Japanese traditional culture and tourism. The Academic Society of Iranians in Japan (ASIJ), an organization based in Tokyo, also took part, selling kebabs and introducing Persian history and tourism.
This year's stage featured traditional dances from many Asian countries - including Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh - as well as a spirited taiko performance by popular drum group Hiyokko.
But as in past years, the highlight on stage was the fashion show of national costumes.
"My favourite part was the fashion show. I liked the diversity of the national clothes and the information about each one. Many of those costumes I had never seen before today," said Sendai resident Yasuko Egawa. "There are so many interesting places and cultures that I want to know more about.
"For Sendai people who don't have the opportunity to travel, it's great that there's an event like this where many countries can bring their culture here to share with us."
Despite the heat, many people stayed until the very end, gravitating towards the stage as the food ran out and the organisers started to wind things down.
"For me, the best part was at the end when we could relax and reflect on the success of the festival. Everyone had a good time and there were no injuries or major problems," said Naomi Hardisumarto. "The theme was 'Smiles of the World' and I think we achieved that."
Contact:Tohoku University Foreign Students Association (TUFSA)