33rd Tohoku University International Festival: Be Happy, Be Yourself

It was one of the hottest days of the year - when temperatures reached 33 degrees Celsius before noon, and punishing humidity coupled with a cloudless sky.

But that didn't deter thousands of people from stopping by Kawauchi Campus on July 1 for the 33rd Tohoku University International Festival, an event that continues to be a perennial favourite on the city's social calendar.

The theme this year was "Be Happy, Be Yourself," a celebration of individuality and diversity. "We wanted to remind everyone how important it is to love yourself the way you are," said Kiya Okhlopkova, president of the festival's organising committee. "If you accept who you are, you will be happy, and happy people make other people around them happy. That's the positive message we wanted to share."

Twenty food stalls offered popular cuisines from around the world, prepared, cooked and served by Tohoku University students. "We've got borscht, a traditional soup, and blini, which is pancakes," said Russian student Denis Rasulov. "It's going really well. I haven't heard any reaction from anyone yet but the line has been very long all day, so I think, I hope, everyone likes the food."

"We're here to provide our take on festival food," said Tabitha Lee, a first year Masters student from Singapore. "We're serving kaya, which is a Singaporean coconut jam and iced Milo Dinosaur, a chocolate drink which is a traditional childhood favourite. Kids love it."

To encourage the city to step out of its comfort zones, try new things and learn about the different people who live here, there were 17 interactive booths and two stages that provided a full day of entertainment.

These included games, folk songs and dances from culturally diverse countries such as India, the Philippines and Africa.


As in past years, the highlight of the stage show was the fashion runway of national costumes.

Popular Japanese drum group Hiyokko brought the afternoon crowd to its feet. But no one could beat the spirit of the university's cheerleading squad who closed out the main stage.

"I didn't realise that this event was so big," said Nobuyuki Fukui, a Sendai resident who was attending the festival with his family for the first time. "I'm surprised that there are so many people here, and so many different things to enjoy, like the food and the music."

Also participating for the first time was Tohoku University President Hideo Ohno, who arrived at midday and delighted the crowd with a casual walk-about. He chatted with students, posed for photos and enjoyed a bowl of noodles from Myanmar for lunch.

"I can see why this is such an important event," he said. "It's not just for the people in the community who generously come out and support us, but also for our students to have a way to share their culture with everyone. The atmosphere here today is wonderful."

The organizing committee for this year's festival comprised some 50 students from 18 different countries working together for more than six months. "We also couldn't have done it without the dozens of volunteers, community groups and university alumni who helped us along the way," said Okhlopkova. "It was hard work but a really good learning experience. And hopefully we provided great memories for everyone who attended."



Tohoku University Foreign Students Association (TUFSA)

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