Students for a Better World: The Beyond the Classroom Blog

Stories, Resources, & More from the Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Program at University of Maryland

Crossing Cultures at the Sakura Matsuri

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On April 12, 2014, University of Maryland Beyond the Classroom students volunteered for the 54th annual Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese cultural street festival held each year by the non-profit Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Two of the BTC student volunteers, Nora Strumpf and Grace Hochheimer, share about their experiences below. BTC Assistant Director Meredith Collier also volunteered at the festival as a member of the international NPO Table For Two; you can read her blog post on the TFT DC blog here.

BTC students at 2014 Sakura Matsuri

BTC student volunteers at the 2014 Sakura Matsuri. The authors of this blog post, Nora and Grace, are seen second from left and second from right, respectively. Photo by Meredith Collier.

Reflection on Sakura Matsuri by Nora Strumpf, BTC Student:

The Sakura Matsuri Street Festival was held by the Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C., and included a number of Japanese performances, food, art and more. As a volunteer at this festival, I learned a bit about how nonprofit organizations run large-scale events, which is a career interest of mine as a public relations major.

Firstly, I learned that such events require many volunteers. While at times it may seem unnecessary, it is more important to be over-staffed than under-staffed. With that being said, while there were not a lot of specific tasks for my classmates and I to do, I still feel that our presence at the festival probably took some of the stress off of those who were responsible for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

Secondly, I found it interesting to see how many people came out to the event. This proves that the nonprofit did a good job of publicizing the event, which is a topic that my group with EmpowerUmd dealt with this semester as part of our UNIV389T “Social Media for Social Change” course. Promoting events can be difficult, but the Japan-America Society of Washington DC clearly knew what they were doing. The event sustained a large turnout throughout the day, which I believe is a tangible measure of success.

Lastly, learning about Japanese culture was both fun and interesting. While this wasn’t the sole purpose of my volunteer experience, I was able to enjoy the festival and watch a performance by the AUN J Classic Orchestra. The orchestra used a variety of Japanese instruments that I was not previously familiar with, and I greatly enjoyed listening and learning about each one. I really appreciated that even though I was at the festival to be of service, I was also able to take-in the experience. This is a tactic that other nonprofits should consider, as it may encourage volunteer retention.

In sum, I had a great time volunteering at this event, and I look forward to going back next spring.

Reflection on Sakura Matsuri by Grace Hochheimer, BTC Student:

During the final weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., there is also a street festival that is put on by the Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. Some students from Beyond the Classroom had the opportunity to go and volunteer as logistics volunteers for the festival. Attending the festival was really interesting– we got to see a lot of things involving Japanese culture that I didn’t know about before the festival including traditional dancing, music, food, and even technological and scientific advances happening right now in Japan.

View of Mt. Fuji in Japan from inside the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train). Photo by Meredith Collier.

View of Mt. Fuji in Japan seen from inside the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train). Photo by Meredith Collier.

I think one of the most interesting parts was the technological advances, particularly the high-speed train technology that Japan uses. High-speed trains are an extremely efficient way to travel and can have a much lower impact on the environment compared to other forms of transportation such as driving and flying. If the United States worked with Japan to install railways the way they have them in Japan it could revolutionize transportation in the United States.

This volunteer opportunity gave us insight into another culture, which could be useful to us for in the future working in the global economy.


Author: btcblogger

Beyond the Classroom (BTC) engages talented and diverse upper level undergraduates from across the university in a selective interdisciplinary living and learning community focused on civic engagement and social change in a global context. The BTC program prepares students to be active and responsible citizens and leaders in a complex, multi-cultural, and global society. We encourage students from all disciplines and majors to realize and develop their potential through an integrated program of academic, experiential, and service components. The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the world’s largest nonprofit and nongovernmental sector, becomes a place of learning through exciting internships and civic learning experiences.

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