The Tohoku University International Festival marked its 30th year this weekend, with a day of music, food and games at Kawauchi Campus' Hagi Hall.
Organised by the university's Foreign Students Association (TUFSA), in collaboration with community groups and local companies, the annual event aims to showcase various cultures, and celebrate both the diversity and common values of people around the world.
"You get to enjoy different kinds of food you wouldn't normally eat," said American Andrew Jones, an assistant English language teacher. "And you can meet a lot of friends from the international community here, some of whom I haven't seen in ages!"
Wang Yanping is a Beijing native who has been living in Sendai for 12 years. "Every day I speak Japanese," she said. "Today I could speak a lot of Chinese, which made me so happy!"
As always, the highlight of the festival was the food. The traditional cuisines of some 24 countries were represented this year - including German schnitzel, Georgian lobio, Vietnamese pho, Iranian kebabs and Hawaiian pancakes - all prepared and cooked by the students themselves.
"Satay ayam, which is chicken barbequed on a stick, has an outdoor feel and Japanese people will find it similar to yakitori. That's why we chose it," said Siti Masturah Binti Fakhruddin, a 3rd year Chemical Engineering Student, who helped out at the Malaysian stall.
Anant Babu Marahatta, a researcher at the Institute of Fluid Science, sold sel roti (a donut-like bread with curry) and chicken dumplings at the Nepali stall. "People come to try the food, but also to ask us about our families," he said, referring to the recent earthquake in Nepal. "There are about 80 of us from Nepal here, and we are all affected."
To raise awareness and funds for the earthquake victims, a special Project Nepal information booth was set up. The booth attracted a lot of visitors, and the team said it aimed to raise an additional 100,000 yen at the festival, from the sale of T-shirts, drinks and cash donations.
"We've already raised about 3.5 million yen through various fundraising activities, which we will send back to Nepal for rebuilding efforts." said Sagar Bhandari, a 3rd year Aerospace Engineering student and a member of the Project Nepal Team. "We've had a lot of people here asking about our families and our homes. Tohoku people understand."
Adding to the sharing and festive atmosphere of the event were the multi-cultural stage performances. These included a fashion show of international costumes, and student groups showing off their native folk dances and musical instruments.
Local high school student Yoko Ichikawa was at the festival for the first time and was impressed with what she saw. "I want to go abroad so it is interesting for me to experience and learn about different cultures. This is really fun! I want to come back next year too."
Not to be outdone, local Japanese groups performed traditional entertainment for the crowd, and set up booths promoting Japanese calligraphy, tea making, regional history and travel.
There were activities for children, too - including interactive games, balloon animals, and a musical of Cinderella, put on by students of the Tohoku International School.
The Tohoku University International Festival attracts thousands of participants and visitors each year. But by changing the date from October to May, and by bringing the festival onto campus, the event was even bigger and more accessible this year.
"I attend this festival every year, but the old location, Sanjo, was very far for me," said Megumi Hinoto, a Nattori resident. "This is much, much better!"
"When we used to hold it in October, many students would have just arrived and they didn't have time to organize themselves. Now that we have it in May, we hope more people can take part and that the festival continues to grow," said TUFSA's Chanon Pornrungroj. "Our aim is always to reach out to as many people as possible."
For enquiries about TUFSA events:Tohoku University Foreign Students Association (TUFSA)
For media enquiries:Tohoku University International PR Section