Interview: Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn library

The website published this interview: Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn library.

Interview: Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn library

By:  leidsche-rijn 
Date: July 12, 2023 10:53 

From this summer, the Japan Fans foundation will organize lessons and workshops in the Leidsche Rijn library. Founder Martine Mussies talks about the “fan club about Japan” and about the activities in the Leidsche Rijn library.

What was the motivation for starting this group and how did it all start?

It all started during the COVID lockdown. I missed my friends from the dojo and decided to start an app group to share fun Japanese things. That group soon burst at the seams, telephones even jammed! We moved the app group to Facebook, where we now have more than 4,000 members, and started a website. First of all, all activities were virtual, for example with videos of Japanese board games specially made by Neverneverland in Utrecht. When the lockdown was lifted, ‘live’ activities began, such as Japanese martial arts, concerts, exhibitions, language lessons and creative workshops. At the same time, we still do things online, so we have a fairly active website and a book club with members all over the world. Every month they choose a Japanese book and discuss it via a special chat group.

Can you give us an idea of ​​what activities are planned for Japan Fans at the Leidsche Rijn Library and how people can participate?

We now have three language lessons every week in the Leidsche Rijn Library – Dutch for anyone who wants, Japanese for beginners and Japanese for the more advanced – as well as all kinds of individual workshops, concerts and other events. All information can be found on our website and via our social media. We are also working on a newsletter, but always have too many ideas and not enough time…

In addition to these activities, Japan Fans is also involved in artistic research. Can you tell us more about this research?

Beats! We conduct different types of artistic research. Our largest project to date has been started in the context of Utrecht 900. It is called “The Power of Kanji” and is about those Chinese characters. We interviewed Utrecht residents of Asian descent who have ‘a thing’ with kanji about how they like it in the cathedral city and for each interview we made a calligraphy from a kanji that we chose together. We then exhibited these works, together with the interviews and personal belongings of the people, in various places in Utrecht, such as libraries. In addition, on behalf of Japan Fans, I now also conduct artistic research into Japanese flute music and budo – Japanese martial arts.

Japan Fans is also committed to the city of Utrecht. In what ways do you contribute to the local community?

All our projects also have a social purpose. Last summer, for example, I played a lot of music from films from the Ghibli studio in nursing homes in and around Utrecht. We also regularly make sushi and other Japanese food for the homeless. We made origami for a hospital and also gave workshops in this Japanese folding art for De Wilg. Sometimes people at a Japan club think that we do this to make money or that we just sit in the corner reading Japanese comics, but the opposite is true. Our activities are free and it is important to us that we actively use our interest in Japanese language and culture to make a positive difference.

What makes Japan Fans unique?

That we are in Utrecht, I think? My example is the “Japan House” in London, but Utrecht does not yet have a Japanese Cultural Center. There are also many ‘Japanese’ activities in Leiden and The Hague, but in Utrecht there was no group yet where you can discover and share various Japan-related things. I missed that, that’s why I started Japan Fans! We are also unique because we are so accessible and inclusive.

Are Japan Fans activities only intended for adults or are there opportunities for children to participate as well?

We have special activities for children, such as our “kodomo no hi” celebration, and often give workshops that are also suitable for children, such as origami and kendo (a Japanese form of fencing). We are also very flexible, we have had children in language lessons before and in consultation we come up with an adapted program for them.

How has Japan Fans enriched your life?

Actually precisely because of the two key words of Japan Fans – friendship and inspiration. To start with the latter: all my Japan-related hobbies have really been “leveled up”. During the lockdown I was alone at home practicing with a Japanese brush. Now I take lessons and workshops from professional teachers via Japan Fans and the work I made can regularly be seen at exhibitions, for example in the Neude library and in the ACU cultural center. and in the City Office. 

The same goes for my writing, thanks to our haiku group, my haiku has improved a lot! I also learn to blog better through the feedback from the other bloggers on the website. And thanks to Japan Fans, I can often go out, for example to review a Japanese film or a concert or to interview someone. Last year we even interviewed the previous Japanese ambassador!

Through Japan Fans I learn Japanese cooking, I get to know all kinds of Japanese martial arts and thanks to the free lessons from Yuko sensei, my Japanese is also improving by leaps and bounds. But most importantly, I found a great group of friends in Japan Fans! We really are a big family, in which everyone contributes.

What are the future plans for Japan Fans? Are there any other events or initiatives you are looking forward to?

Too many to mention! In the near future we look forward to the “Japanese Language Festival ” in September at the Leidsche Rijn library, and to the “ Haiku Meeting Day ” in October at the Neude library . We are also planning new creative meet-ups and a new group that reads Japanese children’s books together in Japanese under the guidance of Hiromi sensei.

Our big dream for this year is to find a permanent location for our Japanese Cultural Center . That will then become our base, both for the Japan Fans as a group, and for a “Japan House” that will become a production house for all our artistic research, including the visual, musical and martial arts. We are already busy working on this behind the scenes, but for now we are very happy with the location in the Leidsche Rijn library. It is a beautiful space, in a part of Utrecht that is undergoing enormous development. We look forward to meeting more Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn!

Interview: Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn library, by the website  Japanese Cultural Center Utrecht.
Interview: Japan Fans in Leidsche Rijn library