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Japan Week begins

SPOKANE -- Beginning Saturday, people will be able to eat with chopsticks, learn origami, wear Kimonos and consume endless amounts of sushi all without leaving the Inland Northwest.

These activities, along with many others, are all part of Japan Week, which shares and celebrates the culture of Japan.

"It emphasizes or brings out the cultural wealth of diversity within our community," says Pam Tajima Praeger, co-chair of the Japan Week Committee. "It's to help bring us closer together in our awareness of each other." She adds the week isn't necessarily to promote Japan, but to promote learning about all different cultures.

The festivities kick off with an opening ceremony at the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza downtown on Saturday. This event provides a taste of many things Japanese, from drumming by Spokane Taiko to the performance of a Japanese dance called bon-odori.

"It's real casual," says Praeger. "People hear the drumming and come in." People are welcome to participate in the dancing and various other activities, and students from Eastern Washington University and Mukogawa will host other interactive activities as well.

Praeger hopes the events will help people to see some of the similarities between the two cultures. She adds that Spokane does have an advantage of easy access to a rich Japanese culture through both international students and Nishinomiya, Spokane's sister city.

"Japan Week is something they can give back and share with the community that's embraced them." -- Rhiannon Fabian

Japan Week runs from April 14-21, with the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, April 14, from noon-2:30 pm at the STA Plaza downtown. For other events, call 328-2971.

Basin cleanup

COEUR D'ALENE -- The Washington-based Lands Council is making a last-minute appeal to gather comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's draft cleanup plan for the Coeur d'Alene Basin.

The state of Idaho initially settled with local mining companies in 1986, receiving $4.5 million for cleanup. Today, the total cleanup is estimated somewhere between $500 million and $3 billion, and the EPA, together with the state of Idaho, is trying to determine which cleanup plan to stick with.

Since the 1880s, Silver Valley mining companies have polluted area waterways with lead, arsenic, zinc, mercury and several other heavy metals. That pollution has been carried downstream to the Spokane River, which is now classified as one of the most polluted rivers in Washington.

Just last year, health warnings were posted on public river beaches, and people were warned of fish being contaminated with heavy metals as well.

The deadline for comments is April 13, and the Lands Council fears that Washington will lose its voice in the cleanup issue if state and federal regulators don't hear from Washington residents now.

For more information, call 838-4912.
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