On March 30, the Japanese Student Association invited students to come out and receive their very own Bonsai tree. Students queued up at the entrance of the Harbor Hall Multipurpose room with the hopes of taking home their very own Bonsai tree to care for. After signing in, students were taken to a “waiting room” of sorts to relax, play board games and watch an educational video on Bonsai trees in Japanese culture while waiting to be called up to receive their tree.
While some may view this foliage merely as a cool ornamental shrub, Bonsai trees are actually an important art form in the Japanese culture, where the “artist” grows miniature tress in a container.
“Japanese culture is very nature oriented and we felt that the Bonsai event would be appropriate for the spring semester,” said Jeremiah Quijote, president of the JSA.
“Bonsai trees are one of the more popular aspects of Japanese culture that people are familiar with, and with this event we hope to teach students how to plant and care for these trees.”
While at the event, the presence of Bonsai trees were abundant. “We have the room split up into two sections: one in which people learn about the historical implications of a Bonsai tree and another in which people plant their own Bonsai tree and learn how to care for it,” said Quijote.
As fascinating as Bonsai trees are, the JSA hopes that people walk away from the event with more than just an intriguing piece of shrubbery.
“We want to spread awareness about the Japanese culture to UMBC students,” explained Quijote. “Not many people know about the presence of Japanese culture on campus. We hear a lot about the Koreans and the Chinese, but not a lot about the Japanese, so we hope with this event to be able to open people’s eyes to a different culture, a culture that they may not be familiar with. There is more to Japanese culture than anime and manga — there is art and food and much more.”
Since middle school, Quijote has been fascinated by Japanese culture and customs. He became a member of the JSA in the hopes of showing others the diversity in Japanese culture. “My interest started with anime, like most people, but then I became more aware about the Japanese culture and discovered more. I realized Karaoke was a thing and Bonsai trees are a thing,” said Quijote.
UMBC has a wealth of diversity on campus and the JSA hopes to display the magnificence of one of these many diverse ethnic groups.