“There isn’t any information about who first started the Japanese Club at UVA, but the oldest existing records indicate that the club was founded around 1996. At that time, JC existed as a small CIO (Contracted Independent Organization) with very few members. Instead of hosting large scale events open to all students at the University, the club held socializing activities for members to share and enjoy their common interests. As the organization grew in size during mid 90s to 2003, JC began to host food events, ski-trips, and D.C. Sakura-trips (Cherry Blossom festival trip). Also, their participation in cultural events such as the Culture Fest provided opportunities to interact with other cultural organizations and helped to gain recognition from the students.
In 2004, JC took a big step in becoming one of the most popular cultural organizations at UVA by hosting a wing eating contest called the Gorge-A-Thon. This event featured Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, currently the #3 eater in the world , and several UVA football players as guest participants. Gorge-A-Thon fuelled JC by giving University-wide publicity and attention to the club.
In the spring of 2005 JC undertook the ambitious project of hosting its first annual Japan Day to spread Japanese Culture awareness to the UVA community. Japan Day was designed to represent the “Matsuri” (Japanese festival) and consisted of free Japanese food, games, cultural presentations, movie showing, and Kimono station where students could try on the Japanese traditional clothes. By providing first hand experiences in various aspects of the Japanese culture, Japan Day successfully displayed what JC could offer to the University and the Charlottesville area. This achievement also proved that JC is now an established cultural organization comparable to other CIOs such as CSA, KSA, VSA, TSA, and OYFA.
One thing that has not changed throughout the history of JC is that the officers and members have always been a diverse group of students. JC is not just a group of Japanese students, but an organization that brings together students of any race and age to share their interest in various aspect of Japan. Many people join JC because they are fascinated by this diversity of the club. JC should continue to keep its door open to anyone in our community in order to carry on its appealing characteristics.”
-James Fukuda, 2007
Today, although the organization name and members may have changed, the same ideals and goals the original club was founded upon remain untouched. It is with much hard work and dedication that the club members continue to strive to bring Japanese culture and awareness to the community while making lasting memories with each other. The history of JC will continue to be written for years to come as a reminder of everyone who contributed to creating an unforgettable experience through Japanese culture and heritage.