Food, music entertain Japanese festival-goers


Attendees of the Georgetown International Kite and Culture Festival enjoy a large open field to fly kites on Saturday April 17, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Zach Walton

Japanese and Kentucky culture collided this weekend and UK students took part in the celebration.

The annual Sakura Festival took place at Yuko-En on the Elkhorn, the official Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden of Georgetown, Ky., over the weekend to showcase the best that Japan and Kentucky have to offer during the garden’s 10th anniversary.

The festival displayed traditional Japanese acts such as swordmanship and Noh theater, along with UK students performing a song and traditional dance and jazz music.

Nobuko Patton, a UK Japanese language instructor, along with her husband, Nathan Patton, organized the event. With good weather contributing to the large turnout, Nobuko said festival-goers could enjoy the variety of international culture.

“We try to do new things every year with the jazz trio and African drums performing,” she said. “We have martial arts and other international culture. We’re not sticking to Japanese culture, we want to introduce people to world culture. It’s good to get interested and involved with culture and have a different perspective of yourself.”

UK students Katie Siler, Aly Proctor and Austin Moss along with UK alumna Sabrina Sheikh performed the popular Japanese song “Kitte no Nai Okurimono,” which translates to “a gift with no stamp,” in front of a pond at the garden.

After the song, the group performed a variant of a traditional Japanese dance called “Soran Bushi.” By acting out the casting and pulling in of nets, the dance signifies the art of fishing and the way of the fisherman.

The performances allowed students to experience a richer image Japan, said Nobuko Patton.

“As a teacher, when I took the students to perform last year, they felt strongly tied to (the) culture,” she said.

For the first time at the Sakura Festival, UK students and a professor performed jazz pieces for the audience. The set was played by pianist and assistant professor of jazz studies Raleigh Dailey, bassist and music graduate student Danny Cecil, and drummer and mechanical engineering graduate student James Polley.

While Polley had been playing jazz for a long time, this was the first time he had performed at an event like this.

“It’s the first time I’ve mixed my love of Japanese culture with music,” Polley said.

The crowd was sizeable this year but the organizers hope to draw larger crowds as the event continues to grow.

Volunteers for the festival hope to make the event and the Yoko-En on the Elkhorn garden a place the Commonwealth can be proud of, Nobuko said.

“Keep coming back, it will keep getting prettier and prettier,” said Nathan Patton.