For the sake of the non-Japanese readers who have no clue what WIF is all about, let me briefly explain. It is a university circle (social club) that I joined three years ago when I first came into Waseda. It is an abbreviation for Waseda International Festival. It brings together Japanese and non-Japanese (from a wide variety of countries) with a common goal of creating a performance on stage. It might not be a rare sight anymore to have a foreigner sitting next to you in class, but how often would you get the chance to learn about his or her country’s culture and practices first hand? Globalization does bring people of different nationalities and background together, but the rest of inter-cultural exchange rests upon ourselves.
“Fear of the unknown” is an obsolete concept. “Curiosity kills the cat” has become an out-dated idiom too. As we are increasingly exposed to more of the “unknown”, we become curious to find out more about it. It is up to our own initiative to step forth and shake his hand, learn his language, listen to his stories and share yours with him. WIF provides the platform for intercultural interaction, beyond the superficial “hi bye” conversations.
How often in your life would you get to dance the traditional Japanese fisherman dance (soran-bushi) alongside people from China, Korea and Australia, or even Hungary, Lithuania and Russia? Just being in this circle widens my horizons and changes my perspective on the world. When you meet someone for the first time, how would you greet him or her? In what language would you speak? It is so ingrained into our minds to speak English to a European-looking person, or in fact any person who does not come from your country. However, English-speakers only take up a minority in European countries, and in fact, there are many people in Europe who feel more comfortable speaking another second language apart from English. In WIF this year, we had a member from Belgium who, aside from his mother tongue French, feels much more comfortable speaking Japanese than English. How long more would it take us to realize that no matter how much English is regarded as an international language, not everyone speaks it?
With every new friend made, I encounter a new embodiment of identity, ideas and inspiration. Each person carries with him his unique background and given the diverse backgrounds people have in this circle, it is always interesting to listen to their stories and observe how their lives have had an impact on their character and the way they think.
In some ways, WIF represents the world. Or more precisely, WIF represents the ideal world. Not even in the United Nations would you see people from America, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Japan, Korea, India, Vietnam, Iceland, Taiwan etc. discussing and coming to a common consensus on something.
In my past three years in this circle, I have learnt Soran-bushi, Silk Road Dance, Taiwan Dance, Korean Dance, Indian Dance, African Dance and Samba. I was never good at dancing, but I feel that standing on stage with a bunch of people from all over the world in itself is already a spectacle. This year, I decided to take up the challenge of acting. Once again, I have never acted or taken part in any drama on stage. Thankfully, with the support and guidance of a few experienced friends, I picked up the knacks of acting. After the performance, I was actually complimented by friends and strangers for my acting. I was flattered indeed, and never felt happier in accomplishing something that I never thought I could do.
Share your culture. Show your identity. Search the world. Find yourselves.