To honor its first international student, Shuji Isawa of Japan, Bridgewater State University held a two-day Japan Festival. The highlights of the festival were the performances of the Kyogen Traditional Theater group. Kyogen is a form of Japanese comic theater that accents the essence of human nature, depicting humor in predicaments and foibles. Kyogen has a rich historical base that goes back hundreds of years and in 2001 was added to UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Consul General of Japan to Boston, his Excellency Akira Muto, spoke on campus on the topic of “Japan and Asia Pacific.” The consul general explained the current disputes in the South and East China Seas with China over disputed islands. He also discussed the domestic controversy in Japan over Article 9 of the Constitution which pledges Japan to pacifism and forbids military action except to protect the homeland. The consul general stated that Article 9 is under review in light of the expansionist actions taken by China.
The campus community was treated to a musical concert with a Japanese theme as Japanese pianists Makoto Takenaka and Manabu Takasawa performed Japanese selections, the Boston Chamber Orchestra played a Serenade for Strings from Edward Elgar and mezzo soprano Heather Holland and five Japanese songs written by Toru Takemitsu. Dr. Deborah Nemko of the Department of Music and Dr. Wing Kai To of the Department of History and the Asian Studies program organized the concert. Dr. Nemko also performed a selection from Maurice Ravel. Bridgewater State University has a close relationship with the Japanese people and the Japanese government as a result of its first international student, Shuji Isawa. Isawa graduated from Bridgewater Normal School in 1877 and went back to Japan to start the public school system, introduce American music to the Japanese people and started what is now the Tokyo National University of the Fine Arts and Music.