Life Science and Technology News
The Wakaba* Festival, a student support and exchange event organized by Tokyo Tech students, was held for the third time at Hisao & Hiroko Taki Plaza (Taki Plaza) on Ookayama Campus from April 11 to 14.
The Taki Plaza Gardener (TPG) student group, under the auspices of the Tokyo Tech Alumni Association, took charge of the planning and organization of Wakaba Festival 2023 in collaboration with various other student clubs and associations at the Institute.
The timely easing of COVID-19-related restrictions allowed organizers to create a gamut of activities so that fellow Tokyo Tech students could enjoy fully the primary purpose of Taki Plaza — the creation of friendly connections and a shared future among the Tokyo Tech student community.
Wakaba is the Japanese word for "fresh young leaves", which are often associated with April and May
Originally, Taki Plaza was intended to be a space where international and Japanese students connect, deepen ties, and create the future together. In line with this idea, the TPG group, which strives to make Taki Plaza a hub for human interaction, set the motto for this year's Wakaba Festival as "Fresh Blossoms". This theme encapsulated the desire to help all those who come to Tokyo Tech to flourish.
On Days 1 and 3 of the festival, extracurricular activity groups held events to welcome new students. Approximately 70 student clubs and associations participated in the event, setting up booths where visitors were free to come and go.
At booths installed on multiple floors of Taki Plaza, each student club offered explanations of their activities to students looking for a club to join. Visitors included plenty of first-year bachelor’s program students, students in later years of study, and international students.
In the event space and workshop area on the B2 floor, students held talk events and presentations on various topics, and offered dance and other performances.
An artwork exhibition was held in Taki Plaza’s kitchen space and gallery. Many visitors were impressed by the works, which included photographs, miniature models, and other creations representing the fruits of Tokyo Tech student activities.
International exchange events were held throughout the festival in the global lounge on the B1 floor. On Day 1, the International Development Academy arranged a batik dyeing experience. On Day 3, the Tokyo Tech International Exchange Student Association (SAGE) hosted "Game of the world", an event that allowed local and international students to enjoy cross-cultural exchange through various games.
On the second floor, the FoldersInTitech (FIT) student club led a workshop where participants created the Tokyo Tech Seal using origami. Digital Creators Club traP, an official Tokyo Tech Student Club, hosted an illustration and sound experience event.
To commemorate the second anniversary of Taki Plaza, a discussion was held on Day Two with Tokyo Tech alumnus Hisao Taki, chairman and director of Gurunavi Inc., and his wife Hiroko. The philanthropists spoke to members of four student groups — TPG, Attic Lab, peer life coaches, and peer supporters — about the activities that have taken place since Taki Plaza was established as a hub for international exchange among students.
Moderating the talk session were Student Support Center Head Tetsuji Okamura and former TPG leader and 4th-year Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering student Risako Yanagase, who is now a peer life coach guiding other students.
Tokyo Tech President Kazuya Masu was present at the event, as was the Student Support Center’s Associate Professor for Institute Management Emiko Yamada, who gave an overview of the participating student clubs. A representative for each club then spoke about their activities to date.
TPG leader Hiroaki Koyama spoke about the planning and execution of various events such as Taki Fes, a music event held on the outside stairs of Taki Plaza, and Taki Plaza Bar, an international exchange session with a focus on board games. Koyama also highlighted TPG’s management of the student bulletin board used by student groups that utilize Taki Plaza, and the survey of Taki Plaza users by the TPG group.
Shin Ishikawa highlighted the role of Attic Lab as a student club that supports the independent activities of Tokyo Tech students. His talk included descriptions of original events such as Research Lightning Talks where students can discuss their own research and the Tokyo Tech Hitotsubashi Incubation Square (THIS) business contest, a collaboration with Hitotsubashi University students.
Shingo Nakayama introduced the proactive academic support that Tokyo Tech members provide to students. Nakayama gave a clear explanation of activities such as the bachelor’s program guidance by student life coaches held every April and the student unit reunions, which created important connections among students who struggled to interact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kosuke Ogawa gave a presentation on the various initiatives of the peer supporters. Topics included the results of individual student counseling services, the content of counseling sessions for new Tokyo Tech students, and an anonymous question and answer service offered to students.
Next, Tokyo Tech Professor Sachiko Ito, head of the Student Success Support Section at the Student Support Center, gave a talk titled “From Taki Plaza to the world, and into the future.” Ito discussed the role of Taki Plaza in creating a rich and diverse Tokyo Tech community, drawing parallels with the likes of California Institute of Technology.
Ito’s talk was followed by an open Q&A session between students, Hisao Taki, the main contributor to the creation of Taki Plaza, and his wife Hiroko. When asked what might be missing from Taki Plaza two years after its creation, Hisao Taki replied, "I hope you can all create, without hesitation, a place for active discussions with international students".
The day ended with some closing words from Executive Vice President for Education Jun-ichi Imura, who encouraged all students to continue to take on various challenges at Taki Plaza without fear of failure.
On the final day of the festival, TPG members held various student exchange projects on each floor of Taki Plaza. Events were intentionally scheduled late in the day so that participants could join in the fun after their classes.
The B2 floor was the venue for the TPG Challenge, where participants solved riddles, Taki’s Kitchen, where students cooked and ate their favorite crepes, and a heated Super Smash Bros. party game tournament on the Nintendo Switch.
On the B1 floor, Board Game Cafe offered a way for students of all backgrounds to bond, as did KimWipes table tennis, a wildly improvised version of ping pong that utilized boxes of wipers often found in Tokyo Tech’s labs.
On the second floor, the Taki Sketch event offered participants a chance to connect through a sketching session.
In the B2 gallery area, the TPG Archives introduced past TPG events held at Taki Plaza. Titles and descriptions, which were posted in both English and Japanese, informed visitors of the history of Taki Plaza as an international exchange facility.
We are delighted that we were able to hold the Wakaba Festival successfully in 2023. This year's festival was held under eased COVID-19 restrictions, and we were finally able to showcase some events that had been difficult to hold in the past. I think many students, including the new arrivals, enjoyed them. Through activities that created exchanges, particularly for new and international students, I feel that we remained true to the original concept of Taki Plaza — a space where international and Japanese students connect, deepen ties, and create a better future together. TPG will continue to plan and organize events that promote student exchange and cross-cultural exchange at Taki Plaza.
Personally, I believe that it is important to expand and diversify my circle of contacts in terms of my future research life. Through this event, I reaffirmed the importance of forging new interactions. I will keep this in mind as I pursue my academic goals and other various activities.
This event is supported by Tokyo Tech Fund