This was the first Japan Matsuri for myself, so I went doe eyed expecting anything and everything – it was a great fusion of Japanese culture and fun in the heart of London.
The first thing to hit you were the many stalls selling authentic Japanese cuisine including sushi, Bento boxes, Tappoyaki(squid balls), calipo(lemonade drink with a marble inside) and sake. The aroma would hook in the fussiest of eaters to try the teriyaki burgers, all from great well known companies – TK Trading, Free Bazaar Ltd, CoCoRo Restaurant, Delicatessen YOSHINO, Mugen Europe Limited, Taro Restaurants/KKTK 2LTD, Clearspring Ltd, Gunma / Tochigi Prefecture Association, Tazaki Foods Ltd., Yumi Co., Paddy Field, Mai Food Restaurant (ISOHAMA LTD), Okinawa ya, Wagashi Japanese Bakery, OKAN brixton village & KOINOBORI brick lane and Japan Centre Group Ltd.
There were two main stages, one past the fountain where all the performances were held and a mini stage in front of the museum for all the martial arts demonstrations. I fought my way to the main stage to get a good view of the Lolita fashion show.
Before the fashion show I got to watch a brilliant choir from Okinawa singing Japanese folk songs, spectacular taiko drumming, the vigorous rhythms of Tsugaru Shamisen and Japanese fishing dances from the north and south by children as young as two! The many violins of the British Suzuki Institute played a medley of music from Studio Ghibli, Lolita fashion from the Tea Party Club, J-Pop with Naomi Suzuki Gekijo and a live Nodo Jiman karaoke contest with great prizes and many more performances.
On the martial arts stage I got to experience the thrilling demonstrations of skill with experts in the disciplines of karate, judo, kendo, aikido, iaido and naginata. Between performances we had mini exercise lessons which is traditional in Japanese culture to be done before work and school – which I am sure you will recall from the movie Battle Royale.
Also the battle of the Tsugaru Shamisen was electric, seeing the best in Japan (Hibiki Ichikawa) playing against the best in the UK who also happened to be his student (Akihiro Ichikawa)playing in a harmonic battle and as an accompaniment to a lovely singer, Alika Mochida too.
Watching the whole Nodo Jiman karaoke contest was an eye opener so many confident and talented people came up of all origins to take a stab at Japanese karaoke. There were many varied styles but only one winner – winning a trip to Japan!
All in all, a great day for people interested in Japanese culture, fashion or for a change of scene, there were great performances for any fashion or martial arts enthusiast or something for the shop-a-holic to food critic to enjoy.
For more information visit: http://japanmatsuri.com/