Japan Matsuri 2012

Yesterday was finally the yearly long awaited Japan Matsuri! And we were lucky enough to be showered with sunshine as opposed to the rain we’re so used to in London.

皆さんロンドンの Japan Matsuri にようこそ!

This year’s Japan Matsuri was held in Trafalgar square. Like previous years it gathered hundreds of people for a day of fun filled activities and Japanese culture. On my arrival I couldn’t help but be drawn to the smells of mouth watering Japanese food, and I have to admit that was my first stop :p

There was food from the Japan Centre, which served sushi, takoyaki, and rice burgers; food from Okinawa Ya, which served Okinawa style soba noodles; food from Yoshino with Japanese curry, and many more stands serving okonomiyaki, wagashi, matcha ice cream and so much more!

Once my tummy had been filled, I started to notice things other than food, like the many different types of people attending the festival. From families, couples, and friends, Japanese, English, French to lolitas, and cosplayers, each and every person present was there to celebrate Japan.

I then wandered round the different arts & crafts, clothing & textiles and other stalls. There were so many kawaii and beautiful items on sale, and the temptation to buy absolutely everything was certainly there! But having learnt from past experiences, this year I made sure to only bring cash and leave my card behind 😉

A few stalls were dedicated to helping those affected by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region. I especially spent quite a bit of time at the Future From Fukushima stand, and Sono which sold items from the Nadeshiko Project:

“Nadeshiko is a group formed by retired women living in temporary housing in Higashi Matsushima. Rather than receive financial aid alone, they wanted to use their talents to reconnect and contribute to society. They do so by making corsages and bags from kimono material that was sunk beneath the tsunami water.”

The designer, Ryoko Mutasono, also has a website and blog where you can find out more information.

Nadeshiko Project
Designer Ryoko Mutasono

If you’re thinking of going to Japan, Japan Matsuri is not only a great way to get a taster of the culture, but it’s also a great source of information. Several travel companies, such as Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Japan Journeys, ANA All Nippon Airways and Inside Japan Tours were all there to help you plan your trip. Further information on studying and living in Japan with JETAA and MEXT was also available. But if you need to brush up on your Japanese before hand, Japan Foundation was on hand to guide you in the right direction.

Finally, I had a quick look at some of the activities, which included trying on a kimono, playing taiko drums, origami, calligrapy, Japanese yo-yo water ball game and more. I was so mesmerized by the beautiful kimonos that I didn’t get a chance to try out all the activities, but I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to do so at the next Japan Matsuri!

But the highlight of the festival had to be the main stage. The performances were such a joy to watch and truly entertaining. From karaoke to taiko drums, lolita fashion to Nihon Buyo, each performance was beautiful in its own way.

The first performance I watched was the Nodojiman: J-Factor competition. The competition welcomed anyone, man or woman, Japanese or not, all were invited to give their best in a Japanese singing competition to win a trip to Japan provided courtesy of ANA. Here are a few of the competitors:

My favorite competitor was the last video. I may have been slightly biased though, since I really like the song: Sakura by Moriyama Naotaro. However, I was very impressed by all the competitors that were not Japanese, yet still manage to sing in Japanese in front of a huge crowd. And here was the lucky winner:

The audience was also invited to join in some of the singing.

And here’s what happens when you mix English and Japanese together:

One very entertaining show was by the Frank Chickens, a group formed in the 80s. The presenters introduced them as bizarre, and even the lead singer jokingly said they had been promoted from being a “national embarrassment to an international embarrassment”. It’s true, the band was quite quirky. But after seeing the likes of Lady Gaga and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, nothing could surprise me anymore. The lead singer’s playfulness and the whole band’s energy was simply contagious.

Another performance where the audience was asked to participate was in the NHK radio taiso. Three NHK presenters came especially from Japan to take part in the matsuri, and give us a little taster of what most Japanese people experience in schools and certain companies.

On a more traditional note, was the lovely Nihon Buyo performance: a traditional Japanese dance developed over four centuries with strong Kabuki influences.

So once again, Japan Matsuri was a huge success! I’m sure many people enjoyed it as much as I did 😀


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