Gabriel Santana began studying Japanese by accident.
He noticed that a class in Japanese opened up at Norwalk Community College a couple of years ago and he hadn’t been interested in any other languages, so he signed up.
From there, the Stratford resident recalled Sunday afternoon from the colonnade at Mead Park, he grew interested in Japanese folklore, music, history and food.
“I took a very serious interest in all of that, and Japanese culture,” Santana, now secretary of NCC’s Japanese Language & Culture Club, said as a crowd of people visited the club’s table behind him, learning about tenugui or Japanese gift wrapping during the second annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Mead.
Sponsored by the Japan Society of Fairfield County and the Consulate General of Japan in New York, the festival featured Japanese folk dancing, taiko drumming by UConn Taiko, the stories of Hachiko the Akita dog and Spartacus, an American Akita therapy dog with K9 First Responders, kimono dressing, ikebana flower arranging for kids, origami and calligraphy. The New Canaan Parks & Recreation Commission approved the traditional festival’s use of Mead Park at its January meeting.
Consul Tomofumi Horiki said the event was “great” and “amazing.”
“Japan’s culture is beloved in the U.S. and world,” he said.
New Canaan’s Jackie Alexander, a Japan Society member who helps organize the festival, said the day was “going great” and had drawn a “nice crowd.”
Among those enjoying the festivities was Melissa Perez of Greenwich, who tried on a kimono for the first time.
“I think it’s fun,” she said of the experience. “It’s really pretty.”
Santana, meanwhile, said his long-term plan with Japanese is to continue learning the language. He’s visiting the country for the first time this summer, through the Temple University of Japan or ‘TUJ’ which has formed a partnership with NCC.
“I hope to transfer there, to TUJ, and maybe make some sort of career and future in Japan,” Santana said.