The Kawasaki Reading Room was decorated with balloons to celebrate its 29th birthday at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Kawasaki Reading Room hosted a birthday party full of activities for students to celebrate its 29th year at the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on Sept. 24. 

Christa Rahl, graduate assistant at the Kawasaki Reading Room, said the goal of the party was to draw students in and promote the reading room as a resource to students as well as to advertise some of the other events they put on throughout the year. 

“Some people, when we say who we are, they just know it right off the bat, and other people have never heard of us by their senior year,” Rahl said. “So, we’re hoping to get our name out there and kind of bring out who we are.”

The Kawasaki Reading Room, located on the third floor of the multicultural center, is home to one of the biggest Japanese libraries in Nebraska with about 7,000 books, magazines and journals on Japanese language and culture, according to Rahl. They offer works in both Japanese and English, and they house a small collection of textbooks that are useful for learning the Japanese language. 

In addition to this, there’s a quiet study area that all students can use. The Kawasaki Reading Room is also a place to engage and connect with other students. Rahl said it’s the hub for Asian international students on campus and a place where everyone is welcome. 

The Kawasaki Reading Room also hosts weekly events at no cost to students. One of these events is the Japanese Conversation Tables. It lasts from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Wednesday and is a resource for anyone taking Japanese courses or wanting to learn the language and needing practice. 

“My undergraduate assistant, who is fluent in Japanese, helps kind of teach and tutor the language,” Rahl said. “So you get to come and practice speaking, and people love that.”

They also put on an event called Tea Time Friday. It lasts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and gives students a chance to relax with a free cup of tea at the end of each week. They offer a new flavor every week and occasionally offer packets that students can take home to make. 

Madoka Wayoro, director of the Kawasaki Reading Room, said that all the resources and festivities they offer are made possible by Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp.

“Because of their generous donations we are able to serve all the university students on campus,” Wayoro said. 

The reading room’s birthday party, which was located on the third floor of the multicultural center, started at 11 a.m. and lasted until 4 p.m. Each hour, faculty put out a different flavor of tea for students to try. Wayoro said this aspect of the celebration was a hit.

“That was really popular because, depending on when they came, they were able to taste different types of tea,” Wayoro said. “If they wanted certain tea they could come back and try five different teas throughout the day.”

In addition to tea sampling, faculty set up a selfie wall so that party-goers could partake in a selfie competition. If they took a picture and posted it, they were entered to win an Amazon gift card. After participaters had sent in their selfies, Kawasaki Reading Room staff members compiled the photos to make something special.  

“We were able to create a collage at the end to share with everyone,” Wayoro said. “That will be a good memory.” 

A total of 55 students showed up to the party and engaged in the day’s activities, according to Wayoro.

The Kawasaki Reading Room had another birthday party in the fall of 2019 as it turned 27. Due to the heavy COVID-19 restrictions last fall, staff were unable to hold a 28th birthday party. 

However, Rahl said with fewer restrictions, they were ecstatic to have the opportunity to bring this event back for year 29. Rahl also explained that they wanted to keep the event smaller this year and focus on reintroducing it to students. They plan to make this an annual affair, going all out for the 30th birthday party next fall. 

“We wanted something that still celebrated that we’re around and you can come see us without going too crazy,” Rahl said. “We’re hoping that since 29 was kind of small, 30 will be bigger.”