The Kawasaki Reading Room is pictured in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Work and school take up so much of a student’s life. Because of this, it can be hard for college students to take time to admire nature’s beauty. Appreciation of nature is an important part of Japanese culture, which is shown through their various celebratory traditions, including Otsukimi. 

Once every year, the Japanese celebrate what they call Otsukimi, an annual moon festival. The literal translation of Otsukimi is “moon viewing,” an appropriate name for a celebration that stems from Japanese people looking to the moon for entertainment.

Centuries ago, it was hard for people to find entertainment, so they would watch the moon during different phases. Over the years, this search for merriment transformed into a day when the Japanese people give thanks to God for the year’s harvest and for providing them with enough food for upcoming years. 

This year, the Kawasaki Reading Room will host its own version of the Otsukimi Japanese Moon Festival on Friday, Sept. 13, at 5 p.m. The Kawasaki Reading Room at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a part of the department of modern languages and is located on the third floor of the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. It serves as a resource center for Japanese culture, art and history. 

According to Madoka Wayoro, the director of the Kawasaki Reading Room, the Otsukimi Festival is traditionally celebrated with Japanese treats like mochi and pampas grass, also known as silver grass. The rice cake is made in honor of the years’ harvest, and pampas grass is believed to cast away demons. The moon festival is also an opportunity to socialize with friends and family, according to Wayoro. 

“It's just tradition, we enjoy the season, each other and the company,” Wayoro said. “Everyone is so busy with studying and work, we wanted to give the students an opportunity to just pause and destress.”

One of the goals the Kawasaki Reading Room had for the upcoming festival was the addition of some type of social activity. Anastasia Dehtyarenko, a senior global studies major and undergraduate assistant for the Kawasaki Room, presented the idea of having an opportunity for attendees to share their favorite poems. The poems are not limited to Japanese or American style, so all types and all languages are welcome, according to Dehtyarenko.  

“It can be absolutely anything, even in your own language, like I want to read some in Russian,” Dehtyarenko said. “I know how hard it is to translate poems, so anyone can read in any language. I think it will be very nice and diverse.”

After the poetry readings, the Kawasaki Room will have tea and traditional mochi available while students have time to socialize and become familiar, not only with the room, but also one another. Alexa Allen, a graduate student in educational administration and the Kawasaki Room’s graduate assistant, said she is eager to see returning students and new students this year because this will be the Kawasaki Room’s first cultural event of the 2019-2020 school year. 

“We did just have the open house, and we talked to a lot of students about what’s coming up, so I'm excited to see the new students that come,” Allen said. “We get to tell them about what we do, and hopefully, they come back for more events and come to see us more often.”

According to Dehtyarenko, Japanese people have several traditions and holidays throughout the year that center around the idea that people should take a moment to pause and just be thankful for their lives. Wayoro is eager to welcome new and old students to the Kawasaki Reading Room to experience those traditions at the Otsukimi Japanese Moon Festival.

“It's open to all students,” Wayoro said. “Anyone is welcome and they are welcome to bring anything they want to share.”