Asia Week ceremonies entertain, enlighten

Brownell says Asian culture important to BSU and United States.

Asia is critical to the United States as well as Ball State, said university president Blaine Brownell Monday at Focus on Asia Week's opening ceremonies.

"Asia is so very important, especially in regard to its culture, population and economy," Brownell said in his address. "The university maintains strong ties with that part of the world through various means such as alumni programs, the Far East Program, Japanese exchange students and language classes."

Chair of Focus On Asia Week Dr. Sung-Jae Park, as well as Charles Bebout, deputy mayor of Muncie, emphasized the importance of Asia and their excitement for the week's upcoming events. They gave their warmest welcomes to the event's honorary speaker, Jiro Maruhashi, Office of the Consul General of Japan in Chicago.

"It is a great day today, a New Year's day. I hope you all enjoy this week's upcoming events," Maruhashi said. "This week will be great."

Following the opening speeches, musical performances filled the air.

Six pieces of traditional Japanese music were played on a conventional piano as well as the traditional Japanese instrument known as a Koto. According to Park, the Koto is not native to Japan but was brought to Japanese shores by cultural ambassadors in the 7th or 8th century.

The Koto is a stringed instrument that somewhat resembles a harp. It has a hollow center, a curved face and 13 strings, usually made of silk or nylon, according to Park.

Plucked with authentic ivory finger picks by Yoshiko Kendall and alumnus Dawn Languell, two Kotos produced a haunting sound of individual sonic string pangs.

Accompanied by Ball State Mezzo-soprano Ritsuko Bando and Yoko Shimazaki-Kilburn, also a soprano, achingly beautiful Japanese music hypnotized the audience until everyone stood and sang a rendition of "Sukiyaki," also known as "Ueo muite Arukoo."

Brownell showed special support for the mostly Japanese-themed event due to his previous experience with completing a Fulbright scholarship at Hiroshima University between 1977 and 1978.


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