USC’s Nikkei hosts 17th annual culture night

“Mangekyō: Kaleidoscope” highlights the diversity of Japanese culture and art.

“Mangekyō: Kaleidoscope” centered around the arts and featured performances by the Trogons A Capella as well as Shinkendo Swordsmanship and a drum recording by Kazan Taiko. (Aubrie Cole / Daily Trojan)

A cappella music, drums and a sea of well decorated booths with colorful stickers and characters filled the Tutor Campus Center Ballroom Friday night as the Nikkei Student Union hosted its 17th annual culture night, “Mangekyō: Kaleidoscope.” USC Nikkei is an organization focusing on Japanese American culture and is open to everyone.

The event featured tables of vendors at the event seeking to sell their art or showcase their work and performances from four different student groups.

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The event had the theme of “art,” which was unique to this year’s edition. Elle Yokota, a senior majoring in psychology and the Culture Night director, chose the theme for the event, meant to highlight modern and diverse Japanese art styles.

“Ever since the internment camps, there have been artists who do use art to express and share their story,” Yokota said. “I just kind of wanted to highlight how we’ve changed and grown as a community, as a culture and highlight how things have changed over the generations.”

Typically, the group’s Culture Night has more of a historical theme, usually centered around World War II and the Japanese American internments that occurred. But even with a different theme this year, the event’s goal of connecting with people and bringing together the community was the same.

“The idea is just to put on a cultural event for the general USC public and share Japanese culture,” said Jason Sadayasu, Nikkei’s events director and a junior majoring in economics and math. “The idea is to bring people together, people who are well versed within the Japanese American community here in Los Angeles and also people who are not … through our event.”

Yokota spoke to the meaning behind the title of the event, “Mangekyō: Kaleidoscope,” and how it tied in with the goal behind the event.

“Even though you look through the same lens, what’s inside is so diverse. It’s really sparkling and brilliant,” Yokota said. “I wanted to share with everybody that sort of beauty in that everyone’s able to take their own experience, even if it is like a shared heritage, like looking through that same lens. Everybody does have that … facet to them.”

Hallie Yong, a senior majoring in global health, tabled at the heyuelia and stxrlight studio table at the event. heyuelia is Yong’s art, which are crochet pieces, while stxrlight studio is Yokota’s art, which includes stickers and prints featuring characters inspired by Japanese mascots. Yokota’s art was also featured at previous years’ culture nights. The event was Yong’s first time selling things ever.

“I hope that running this table is interesting for people who stopped by and that they have a good experience like the way that I did when I was just attending last year,” Yong said.

Annie Nishida, who was selling comics, prints and stickers at the event, is also a USC alum who graduated in 2014. She had previously sold all over California, from San Francisco to San Diego.

“I really felt supported by USC Nikkei when I was a student, so I wanted to come back and help support the students who are currently going here,” Nishida said. “I hope that my work sparks joy … I just like to connect with people.”

The event also featured four performances from student musical and cultural groups. The first was from Trogons A Capella, an East Asian a capella group on campus, who engaged the audience by bringing two songs to life and used spotlights to illuminate the singers. Performances from Spade A Dance Team and Shinkendo Swordsmanship Club followed, with Shinkendo Swordsmanship Club using wooden swords against each other to showcase their swordsmanship style.

Trogons A Capella performed two songs, “LOSER” by Japanese singer Kenshi Yonezu and “Let You Break My Heart Again” by Icelandic singer Laufey, who spoke at USC March 21. The songs took on a new life without the use of instruments, and the audience was able to clearly see the singers through their use of spotlights.

“We are the East Asian a capella group, so we want to celebrate East Asian culture,” said Demi Zhou, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “So, whenever there are those cultural events, we’re very willing to come.”

The performers such as Trogons A Capella and vendors are just some of the people who are responsible for culture night’s success. Yokota said she wanted to highlight all of the people who helped with the production of Culture Night.

“Thank you to everybody who made this event possible … none of this would have been able to come together without the help of this whole entire community,” Yokota said.

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