Third annual Matsuri festival at Japan House brings community together


Bang Nguyen

Crowds gather around a performance at this year’s Matsuri Festival by the Japan House on Sunday, Aug. 27.

By Isra Rahman, Staff writer

Students not only had the option to go to Quad Day on Sunday, but they also could have headed towards the University’s arboretum and Japan House to explore traditional food and entertainment from Japan.

The Matsuri festival, now in its third year, began at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The festival is an effort put forth by the Japan House to create a fusion of contemporary and traditional culture in both Japan and the Western world.

The event was sponsored by local organizations such as Norden at Home, Sunshine Studio, the Wright Soapery and Same Street.

“The food is from local businesses and they don’t even necessarily have to be Japanese,” Cynthia Voelkl, assistant director of the Japan House, said. “They sometimes make an item specifically for the event and add a modern twist on it.”

From “flying machine coffee,” a “mochi-matcha” tea, to Pizza M’s “Japan house slice,” the event had a little bit for everyone. A total of 16 restaurants from the CU area such as Bacaro, Chester’s BBQ, Cracked, Miga and Sakanaya participated in the event.

Entrance to the festival was free, but tickets for food and drinks were available for purchase.

According to the Japan House website, the event had drum performances from Ho Etsu Taiko; Aikido, Iaido, Judo, Karate and Shinkendo martial arts demonstrations; calligraphy by Seiran Chiba; yukata dressing; fashion shows; a bubble table from the Sugar Grove Nature Center; face painting; the Candyman, Masaji Terasawa; cosplay dressing; a tea ceremony by the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Urbana-Champaign Association; craft vendors; Ikebana displays and Bonsai demonstrations.

The festival has continued to surprise Japan House organizers by bringing more people in each year. To accommodate the growing attendance, they have expanded the event and added more performers to the lineup.

“We started off the festival three years ago thinking maybe a thousand people would show up,” Voelkl said. “But we were pleasantly surprised and it continues to grow. People come from all across the Urbana-Champaign area with their family and friends.”

It isn’t uncommon to see individuals dressed in traditional Japanese clothing walking around and taking photos of the food and entertainment.

Jingchi Liu, sophomore in LAS, is an international student from Japan and came to the event in a traditional kimono to celebrate her culture.

“The event makes campus feel more like home,” Liu said. “It is reassuring to see people come from all around and learn about my culture.”

The performers ranged from dancers to calligraphers, and the evening was capped off with fireworks.

“We work to preserve Japanese culture and show people how it is incorporated into popular culture,” Voelkl said. “Most people don’t know the origins of the things they eat or see, and this helps to show them that.”

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