Arizona Matsuri Festival This Weekend

Arizona Matsuri Festival This Weekend

Arizona Matsuri festival celebrates Japanese culture

Laura Latzko, Special for The Republic10:36 a.m. MST February 23, 2016

Dance, martial arts, food and more at 32nd annual event in Phoenix Feb. 27-28

Visitors to the Arizona Matsuri festival can learn about traditional and modern Japanese dance styles, music, martial arts, food and art.

Held at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix on Feb. 27 and 28, Arizona Matsuri provides an immersive and interactive experience of Japanese and Japanese-American culture.

Festival co-chairman Ted Namba said the event has continued to evolved in its 32 years but still educates people about Japanese and Japanese American traditions from throughout history.

“We are trying to share the Japanese culture with everybody in Arizona,” Namba said. “Instead of paying $800 or $900 to buy a ticket to Japan, you can really get a grasp of Japanese culture here in Phoenix at our festival.”

Arizona Matsuri kicks off on Saturday with a parade featuring musicians, taiko drummers and dance groups.

Arizona Matsuri

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 27-28.

Where: Heritage and Science Park, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix.

Admission: Free. $10 for tea ceremony; additional costs for children’s crafts.

Details: azmatsuri.org.

Other activities: Lantern-making and Japanese culture exhibit, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 27-28 at Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix. $10 for lantern-making. azscience.org.

This year’s theme is Momotaro, a Japanese folk hero. During the opening ceremony, Arizona Ondo Kai dancers will pay tribute to Momotaro with a themed performance.

Illustrator and children’s writer Sunny Seki, author of "The Little Kokeshi Doll From Fukushima," will also share the story of Momotaro at the Plaza Stage on both days of the festival, and vendors will have Momotaro merchandise.

Four stages will showcase taiko drumming, a shakuhachi flutist, a Japanese lion dance, a martial arts theater company, a candy sculptor, a traditional fisherman’s dance called Soran Bushi, a kimono fashion show, a J-pop dance team and acoustic group and a 1960s Japanese rock band.

On both days, the ASU stage offers hands-on opportunities to try taiko drumming.

The Monroe Street stage will be dedicated to martial arts and fighting styles such as aikido, ninpo, budo kai, classic Japanese swordsmanship, kyudo archery and karate.

For the first time, entertainers from Japan with perform a 400-year-old art of comic storytelling called rakugo at the Lath House stage.

At the Plaza stage, Kat McDowell, a contemporary Japanese-American singer, headlines on both days.

For anime and manga enthusiasts, Samurai Comics will host a cosplay event at the Monroe Street stage on Saturday and Sunday.

Members of the Kenshin Dojo return to demonstrate the laido martial arts style and kenbu sword dance, 400-year-old art forms dating back to samurai times, on Saturday and Sunday at the Monroe Street stage.

Today, laido is considered more of an art form for teaching self-discipline and precision of movement.Traditionally, samurai used laido movements, such as twisting or spinning their bodies, striking at different angles and putting their swords away without looking, when fighting their enemies.

Sensei Bob Corella said students at his dojo have become a close-knit family and are always there to help either other to grow.

“The purpose of this is to make us better human beings and to preserve this art,” Corella said.

Another returning group, Arizona Ondo Kai, aims to get audiences up and moving during interactive Japanese folk dance performances on Saturday and Sunday at the Plaza Stage.

The dancers use intricate hand movements and props such as uchiwa and sensu fans, Japanese or U.S. flags and hanagasa flower hats in their performances.

The drum group called Saboten performs during the ArizonaThe drum group called Saboten performs during the Arizona Matsuri, Sunday, February 22, 2015, in downtown Phoenix, Ariz. Jeffrey Lowman/The RepublicFullscreen

The ondo dance style is traditionally performed during the Bon Odori festival, a joyous religious celebration to honor and express gratitude to ancestors.

Mineko Tominaga of Arizona Ondo Kai said ondo is simple enough for anyone to learn.

“Ondo is not something that is enjoyed until you dance it and are a part of it,” Tominaga said.

In the exhibitor area, clubs, art studios and business and cultural organizations will have information booths and activities. The space will also feature educational displays on Arizona’s Japanese-American history.

The Asian Pacific American Studies program at ASU aims to educate the public about Japanese internship camps in Poston and along the Gila River during World War II.

For those interested in experiencing a traditional tea ceremony firsthand, the Arizona Association of Chado Urasenke Tankokai offers demonstrations each day in the Lath House conference room.

A children’s area will engage youngsters with origami and other crafts.

About 20 restaurants and food trucks will offer authentic Japanese and Hawaiian foods and desserts, including takoyaki, a dumpling prepared with octopus; yakisoba, a traditional noodle dish; and nikuman, steamed pork buns. Adults can enjoy Asahi beer and sake in a beer garden.

More than 40 Arizona and out-of-state vendors will bring authentic items such as kimonos, hand-crafted gifts, toys, artwork, jewelry, kitchenware, incense, bonsai trees and manga.

For the second year, the Haiku Expo showcases the top entries from an annual haiku poetry contest open to children to adults.

And the Arizona Science Center will offer an interactive lantern-making activity in its new CREATE space and have a display of kokeshi dolls, origami and photos from Japan.

Arizona Matsuri

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 27-28. 

Where: Heritage and Science Park, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix. 

Admission: Free. $10 for tea ceremony; additional costs for children’s crafts.

Details: azmatsuri.org.

Other activities: Lantern-making and Japanese culture exhibit, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 27-28 at Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix. $10 for lantern-making. azscience.org.

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Cheryl Lindblom Home Team @ KW Headshot
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Phone: 480-204-3392
Dated: February 23rd 2016
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