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FIU event raises money for Japan relief efforts

Florida International University hosts a day dedicated to celebrating Japanese culture while raising funds for relief efforts in that country.

BY Rodolfo Roman
Special to the Herald

With Mother’s Day around the corner, Florida International University student Carol Wang, used her artistic mind to create a gift for her mom.

Using roses and leaves, she put together an arrangement using the Japanese principles of the art form known as ikebana.

“It’s an early Mother’s Day gift,” said Wang, 21, who is of Chinese descent.

On Saturday, Wang joined more than a hundred people who came together at the main FIU campus in West Miami-Dade to celebrate Japanese culture and raise money for relief efforts in that country.

Wang, who visited the Asian country last summer, said the event brought back memories.

“I just want to go back again,” said Wang, who also studies Japanese at the university.

The massive March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed more than 10,000 people and has been classified as the most powerful earthquake to have ever hit the country.

The Japan Culture Day program was organized by Mieko Avello, who is a member of the Florida Teachers of Japanese, in collaboration with the FIU Asian Studies Department and the City of Miami Kagoshima Sister Cities Committee.

Admission was $10 for adults, children under 12 years old entered free. All proceeds will go the US-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund, which will aid the country. The goal was to raise $3,000.

Avello, who is Japanese, said the program will benefit those in much need of aid. The venue was fitting, she added.

“FIU has a very big Asian and Japanese program so it is good to attract students, who are also taking Japanese classes,” she said. “It is a good way to promote and experience Japanese culture.”

Games like Japanese tug of war and a bread-eating race tested skills.

The event drew people of many nationalities, such as Emmanuel Batoc of the Philippines.

“My children are of Asian origin and we want to expose as much culture as possible,” he said. “Miami is a cosmopolitan place. I think that the fact that the community is supporting an Asian event is amazing.”

Participants enjoyed several Japanese activities such as creating origami, trying on kimonos, practicing calligraphy and learning ikebana, taught by Mieko Kubota of Ikebana International, an organization with chapters across the world devoted to the traditional art form.

Kubota said her country’s traditions need to be preserved, especially in light of the natural disaster.

“It is my mission to introduce Japanese culture,” she said. “It is important.”

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