Tohoku University Festival: Annual updated series of Tohoku University

Generally, the same drama will lose its viewership if new episodes are not released. Harry Potter, one of the most popular novels of all time, would not be able to attract such a huge number of followers until now if it saw its end after the initial 7 books. Also, Starbucks, the most popular coffeehouse chain, would not be able to increase and retain their customers if no new flavors or new products are promoted periodically. In the same manner, because of annual updated contents, staff as well as activities, Tohoku University Festival is still alive until its 69th anniversary in 2017. In other words, Tohoku University Festival is comparable to an annual updated series of Tohoku University.

 

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Scenes from the festival day

 

Tohoku University Festival always comes up with new contents. The contents here are referred to as students’ work and performances from clubs and circles, special events as well as public relations. During the whole year, students seriously practice, obtain new wisdom, and finally create things they are interested in. Accordingly, every year, this festival gathers and exhibits all the new things. Since clubs and circles basically stay alive and are reformed from year to year, such outcomes will always get better and better continuing from what was done in the previous year. One conspicuous workpiece belongs to the Railway Research Circle. They are building the model of a railway system centered-around the Sendai based-one. It is interesting to see the progress of the model in one year. The project is extremely challenging and requires a lot of effort to be put in. It is because of such efforts that there is no doubt why Tohoku University Festival can attract such a large number of guests, approximately 33,000 people in 2017.

 

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More than 33,000 people visited the festival in 2017

 

A film production has a lot of things that goes behind the scenes. For example, photography, camera operation, film edition and sound engineering. In the same way, apart from the festival’s outlook, there are the stories of organizers, event preparation, public relations and students participating in the festival. “For organising the festival in November 2017, we began planning in December 2016”, said the organizing committee. The preparation starts just 1-2 months after the previous festival, including leader election, followed by theme and mascot consideration held around May or June. The 69th Tohoku University Festival is the first time that the public relations have become more internationalized; “Our idea was to create a school festival where foreign student can truly enjoy. To facilitate the same, we had an English website, signboards in English and also the map in English.”, the committee said.

It was not only the organizers but also participating students who put in efforts for the festival. Honoka, now a 2nd year student from piano circle, practiced piano everyday just for the festival performance for 2 months. Without a doubt, because of their efforts, the smile of the visitors were the most valued rewards for them. Also, the bonds of friendship formed during the entire year in the club (and amongst the group of organizers) are also precious things which, is irreplaceable.

 

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Main stage during the festival

 

Unlike J.K. Rowling who definitely knows here next piece of work, the festival committee doesn’t. In case of Tohoku University Festival, composers, who compose this unforgettable annual symphony, are everyone who are related to the festival. So, there are no hints about the future. However, everyone is looking forward for the 70th edition, the future of this unique Japanese culture. “Thinking about the next 20 or 50 years, I think there will be more attendants especially from foreign countries. Tohoku University Festival is the event where Japanese students and foreign students have some activities together.”, said Honoka. New clubs are also anticipated next year. Since society and people interest change from time to time, it is highly possible that new clubs will take birth as a response to the coming trend. Perhaps, E-sport will be one of the sports club in the near future. Food club will not be just a group of people who love cooking but also who are interested in the research field of Molecular Gastronomy. The scale of the club would expand to the social level, where the university club cooperates and are partly supported by outside companies.

Lastly, if we compare Tohoku University Festival to a novel, it is the novel whose new volumes are released every year, written by Tohoku University students. The story behind the novel writing process is full of efforts put in by organizers and friendship between club members. The future of Tohoku University Festival will probably be the next updated chapter of this unforgettable novel series.

As reported by Tanach Rojrungsasithorn (Tae). Tae was born and brought up in Thailand and loves to play video games. If you ever meet him, he might bake a crème brûlée for you. He is currently a third year student under the IMAC-U program of Tohoku University.

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Royal meets Rural: One Sendai Hotel’s Inbound Tourism Strategy

“How do we attract more tourists?” continues to be the big question asked by government agencies, tourism and travel companies, restaurants and finally major hotels here in Japan.

Several of the major luxury hotels here in Sendai, such as Metropolitan, Westin, and Kokusai Hotel, already boast high level service and partial, or complete, multilingual websites with multilingual staff, in addition to their excellent facilities. These hotels are also quite famous for their restaurants, which would be expected of any luxury hotel in the world. But what really sets these hotels apart from each other?

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While each are sure to have valid points to argue, one luxury hotel in Sendai is setting itself apart by combining the comfort of staying at a luxury hotel with the raw experience of rural nature, farming, and adventure.

Sendai Royal Park Hotel opened in 1995 with the theme of a European Manor. It appears almost castle-like in appearance, with an elegant interior and property-wide outside garden. Its location is both a blessing and a curse for tourism. Freeway access and the adjacent Izumi Premium Outlet shopping mall make this a great pitstop for those coming by car. However, while there is a free shuttle from Sendai Station, tourists from abroad are tempted to stay at more central hotels in the city center.

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In fact, Royal Park Hotel is on the border of Sendai’s suburbs and Izumi Ward’s farm country. And for this reason, as of last year, the hotel has started creating outdoor activities and programs specifically to attract international visitors– something other Sendai luxury hotels here have not yet started or simply can’t because of their confined location.

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Strawberry or mushroom picking, a cycle tour through rice fields and forest to a hidden waterfall, stargazing, and wintertime snowshoe trekking are starting to put the hotel on the radar of travelers. Another well-known program is “glamping” or “glamorous camping”. Think top quality cuisine paired with fine wine enjoyed inside a tent lit by a miniature chandelier. This was one of the activities introduced by Sendai-based YouTuber Chris Broad through his video “What does a $3000 Japanese Hotel Room look like?“, uploaded August 2017. The video has amassed over 910,000 views.

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Olga Zielińska, a Sendai resident with experience in Tohoku region travelling and tour guiding, recently tried the half-day cycling program. She remarked: “This is what none of the big metropolis in Japan have. The calm countryside of Sendai, lunch with fresh locally grown ingredients, the real traditional Japan experience within one hour drive from the city center, and, more importantly, without overwhelming crowds. Cycling along creeks and rice paddies while enjoying the view of Mt. Izumi, and later coming back for English-style teatime at the hotel was the perfect ending of an incredible stay at the hotel”

Director of the hotel, Katsuhiko Kasai, made it clear that that he wants to work together with locals and make sure they are happy during promotion efforts. He was surprised with the responses so far: “Farmers welcome us with waves and smiles, and once a tour group was flagged down and given freshly made sweets by a housewife! Sometimes our tours do lunch with farmers that have prepared rice balls from the same fields we cycle through!”. He also emphasized he wants participants to think about where their food comes from and to appreciate nature on a deeper level.

As the hotel has fewer rooms than other major hotels in Sendai, travel site reviews and word-of-mouth is challenging as there are just fewer guests compared with other hotels who are sharing their experiences. However, as Royal Park Hotel tours are also open for people in Sendai just visiting for the day, and there is a global trend in tourism for experiences over destinations, time will tell if such inbound tourism strategy will work—and how other hotels in Sendai will react. In the grand scheme of things, competition is good for business, especially when that business is promoting our city Sendai.

As reported by guest-writer Justin Velgus. Justin is an American who currently works with the Fukushima Prefectural Government but loves to explore Tohoku. He enjoys cycling and onsen and you can definitely treat him with gyozas!

A few additional comments were added by Manuel Campos. Manuel was born and brought up in Venezuela and is currently serving as the Managing Editor of ‘The Sentinel’.