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The Japanese Connection

Participants dress Yukattraditional one-piece summer dress Japan during Japanese themed teen summer reading celebratiValparaiso Ind. branch Porter County Public Library.

Participants dress in Yukata, the traditional one-piece summer dress of Japan, during the Japanese themed teen summer reading celebration at the Valparaiso, Ind., branch of the Porter County Public Library. | Steph Langan~For Sun-Times Media

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If you go

What: Caps for Cancer

Where: Porter County Public Library, Meeting Room B, 103 Jefferson St., Valparaiso

When: 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug 19

Cost: Free

Worth noting: Intended for age 12 through adult; a list of needed supplies will be given when registering.

Contact: Angie, circulation department, 462-0524

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Updated: November 2, 2011 2:49PM



A group of teens learned recently that there’s more to Japanese culture than Pokemon characters and Manga novels. The Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso branch, celebrated the end of summer reading with a teen party called Japanese Culture Connection.

Willow Cataldo, head of youth services, coordinated the event.

“When we were planning this, the tsunami had just happened, so we decided to learn more about the country,” said Cataldo. “I think it gave the kids an opportunity to learn about other cultures in a different way than just studying about them in school.”

Rumi Mitsubayashi, Japan Outreach Coordinator at the Chinese and Japanese Studies Program at Valparaiso University, helped the group experience the tastes, sounds and feel of Japan.

The room was adorned with multicolored origami swans and paper globe lanterns. Asian music played in the background.

Mitsubayashi taught the group common Japanese phrases and explained facts about school life, religion, food, sports, weather, the government, transportation and more.

John Nevarez, 12, of Valparaiso attended the program that day.

“This is a good experience. I had a good time,” said Nevarez. “I didn’t know anything about Japan before I came here; now I do. I’d like to go there some day.”

Mitsubayashi taught the group how to hold chopsticks. Each group was given a plastic cup and a pile of glass stones. The youths raced to pick up the stones with their chopsticks and then place them in the cup.

Afterward, several youths tried on a yukata, a traditional one-piece, ankle-length summer dress with long, flowing sleeves.

Danielle Dudash, 13, of Chesterton used chopsticks for the first time that day.

“I think (Japan) is pretty cool. I wish I could visit,” said Dudash. “The decorations are pretty. (Mitsubayashi’s) dress is really cool. I like the style of it, the sleeves and the colors. I would like to wear one someday.”

The group ate Japanese pan noodles, which were donated by Noodles and Co. of Valparaiso. They snacked on a sushi, a dessert made from rice crispy treats and gummy fish, wrapped in fruit roll-up “seaweed.”

Alessandra McCutchen, 16, of Valparaiso donned a light blue yukata and sampled the noodle dish.

“I like the dress. I feel like a bird,” said McCutchen. “I enjoyed learning about the chopsticks. I like the different kind of food. It was kind of hot and made my eyes watery. But it was good.’

Next month, teens and adults are invited to knit caps which will be donated to the Porter County Cancer Society.



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