Photo credit: Holly Khaliun Amarjargal
The sixth annual Japanese festival was an exciting window into the vibrant culture of Japan was a celebration for the senses.
Whether it be young Maiko gliding about the room in their colorful kimonos or the continuance of traditional Japanese folk music filling the air the room welcomed it visitors with a beautifully displayed portrait of Japanese culture. And there certainly were plenty of visitors.
Lined along the walls were booths with a variety of activities that entertained and taught young children and their parents about the culture. One booth had a game that is traditionally played on New Year’s, called Fukuwarai where you try to arrange facial features onto a face while blind folded. Though this game dates back to the late Edo period, 1603-1868, it has been updated by using the faces of pop culture icons such a Pikachu.
In another booth, there was an intense game of yo-yo fishing, where you used fine paper and a hook to catch a balloon in the water. If the water touched the paper it would become compromised, but if you could catch a balloon you would be sent home with a little goldfish.
The highlight of the evening was the performances done by local groups from around Utah and Salt Lake counties. Amongst the performers were Geisha dancers, Koto players, Samurai dancers and Taiko drummers, each showing the audience a taste of what Japanese culture has to offer.
Even young children had an opportunity to show their love for their culture through song and dance. One group in particular was exceptionally engaging. Using a combination of Jazz and traditional Shamisen to cover music from Studio Ghibli, their performance was both engaging and nostalgic.
Out in the foyer they would periodically have a tea ceremony demonstration. One of the Geisha would ask for three volunteers and ask them to sit in from of a plate with a fortune cookie on it. She would proceed to teach the volunteers about the proper way to bow to the person pouring the tea, as well as prepare them for what to expect from the tea. By far, the most calming of all the events, it was a surreal experience so see the reverence in something so simple as drinking tea.
Not only was this a festival of learning and entertainment, this was a festival of giving. Every year the Japanese festival has a charitable theme; this year that theme was the Ebola outbreak. Before the performances they had a short segment with a reminder of what is going on in West Africa. With moving music and powerful images of suffering and hope, they asked that all donations go to the Red Cross on behalf of those suffering from this devastating disease.
Be it for the good food, the beautiful and diverse performances, the fun games or the chance to learn something new, nobody left the festival disappointed.