Attendees on Sunday were greeted by the Sakura Chorus Mile High choir, who performed contemporary Japanese songs while dressed as their favorite anime characters. The UNC modern languages department and associated clubs teamed up with the Greeley community to host the second annual Japan Festival and Cosplay Contest.
Cosplay is the activity of dressing up as a favorite character from a movie, video game or book. Characters are traditionally chosen from Japanese genres of manga, a Japanese style of comic book or graphic novel, or anime, the animated film or television adaptation of a manga.
UNC’s Japanese Modern Languages Department and UNC’s Japanese Culture and Anime Club teamed up with UNC’s cosplay club, Cosplay School of Stitchcraft, to host the cosplay contest. Cosplay School of Stitchcraft started three years ago. The club members have judged the cosplay contest for the Japan festival since it began two years ago.
The judges of the cosplay contest are chosen for their experience in cosplaying and its competitions. UNC Student Michael Knies has been cosplaying for 10 years, and dressed as Aserial Dreemurr from “Undertale,” a role-playing video game. UNC Student Samantha Knies, who has cosplayed for eight years, cosplayed as Princess Zelda from the “Legend of Zelda” video games. UNC graduate student Anna Williams cosplayed as a gijinka, which is a humanized version of an animal-like character; in this case, Williams dressed up as Flareon, a fire-type pokémon from the “Pokémon” TV series. Williams has been cosplaying for 16 years.
Rebekah Woolverton, otherwise known as the “Wandering Rabbit” cosplay, placed first in both the masters category and as the overall winner of the contest. She dressed up as Dancer of the Boreal Valley, the final boss in the video game “Dark Souls 3.” A ‘boss’ is an enemy at the end of a level in a video game that is defeated with great difficulty. Woolverton has been cosplaying for nine years. Her “Dark Souls 3” cosplay took her two to three months to make. It included a fully-LED sword to give it a glowing-blue effect.
“She is known as being one of the only female bosses and one of the hardest bosses,” Woolverton said of her cosplay choice. “She is like 20-feet tall. She’s huge and beautiful, so like I wanted to be her. But the hardest thing is getting the proportions.”
Rie Seaver won in the intermediate category as Ashitaka from the Studio Ghibli anime film “Princess Mononoke.” Seaver is a retired teacher who has been cosplaying for four years. She found her passion through Halloween and spirit week days, where she could show off her costumes.
Ruth Whiston won the novice category as Lloyd Garmadon from the “Lego Ninjago” movie. Whiston has been cosplaying for seven years. She competed in this event last year as Sailor Sylveon from the anime and manga “Sailor Moon.”
Williams, the adviser for the UNC cosplay club, came up with hosting a Japan festival and cosplay contest with Sumiko Gibson, the UNC Japanese modern language professor.
Last year the event was hosted at the University Center on the UNC campus, according to Sumiko Gibson. This year, the venue was changed to the 4-H building so they could offer the Greeley community the opportunity to be more involved in Japanese culture.
The 4-H building also allowed for the event to serve their own foods by vendors Rocky Mountain Ramen and Sayanni catering. Rocky Mountain Ramen served a traditional ramen soup with a boiled egg and a slice of pork shoulder topped with green onions. Sayanni catering served Dango, a Japanese rice dumpling made with a sweet soy sauce, as well as green tea and chocolate macarons.
“The majority of people here are either taking Japanese, or they have already taken it, or they are interested in it,” said Esthela Dominguez while she volunteered to serve the Japanese sweets provided by Sayanni.
Activity booths were included with the festival, where traditions such as the tea ceremony, origami and calligraphy were presented. Other booths shared traditional games. The Japanese Academy of the Rockies provided face painting as well as more information on their organization.
UNC’s Chinese Culture Club and Japanese Culture and Anime Club hosted booths exhibiting their club activities and interests.
After the festival, a presentation began where the Moriya Japan Sister City program was introduced. The program is an opportunity for Greeley high school students to experience Japan and its culture through host families. Following the presentation on the Sister City program, a live demonstration of karate took place via the International Black Belt Academy of Greeley. The academy has been instructing for 30 years.
“Denver Taiko,” a Colorado-based music group that performs traditional music on primarily Japanese drums, ended the event with a thunderous performance and enthusiastic applause from the audience.