While on a short summer exchange in Hiroshima University, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in their Yukata Matsuri. I was expecting the festival to be somewhat similar to heritage festivals or campus events typically organized in Singapore universities, but it was really a different experience. For one, as the name of the festival suggests, most students came dressed in their brightly colored yukatas, and this made the environment really lively and festive. The students set up stalls selling Japanese snacks like Takoyaki and Taiyaki, and to promote their stalls, some would wear mascot costumes and walk around the campus. The highlight came at night, when all the students gathered in the outdoor amphitheatre to watch their schoolmates face off in a dance competition. It was so packed with people that I could only get a glimpse of the performances if I climbed onto elevated footholds. The evening ended with a dazzling display of fireworks over the campus. To date, I still hold this memory very dearly in my mind.
Through this festival, I noticed that the students in Hiroshima University work hard and play hard at the same time. Even though most of them have got to work part-time to pay off their tuition fees, they also put in a lot of effort to make the Matsuri an enjoyable memory for everyone. I wonder what these Japanese students would feel if they came to Singapore and took part in one of our campus events. Disappointed perhaps?
I think that campus events in Singapore still have their distinctive flavours, but what is usually lacking is the passion that our own students have for such events. In our pursuit for a good grades and personal time, it’s easy to dismiss such events as unimportant and therefore not attend them. But in the end, a fulfilling campus life, perhaps, might be the best summary you could give to your university education.
Lui Liting (former exchange student to Hiroshima University), September 2010