Look Back: 2017 Victoria Japanese Cultural Fair

22 Oct

sillyjames.jpgBy James Robert Shaw
(The Wind up Geek)

If there is at least one thing I have in common with author Nancy Singleton Hachisu, 7th dan kyoshi of Kendo Alexander C. Bennett and media mogul Dave Spector, it is sharing their love of all things Japanese. One could call us Japanophiles. But in the end, we all can manage to hold independent critical thoughts on issues pertaining to the country we love.

At Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society’s Japanese Cultural Fair, someone can become a Japanophile very quickly in the space of a single day. This annual event has been hosted for some time now by the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, a fitting place for any festival or convention starting out. But from what I have seen, this centre may have issues with crowd control in the future because of the large the number of attendees I saw come through.

The Festival operates on a simple idea, come for the event but stay for the food and culture. The food looked and tasted great. It was prepared using valuable time donated by society members and Japanese restaurants of the Greater Victoria area. The prices were quite reasonable but I doubt that was the only reason the food sold quickly.

VeggieBento

My vegetarian bento (prepared by members of the society) was delicious. I used my chopsticks to dig out the pieces of shitake mushrooms and tamago (sweet egg) and sent it down my throat. The wet seaweed if done wrong will make me feel ill but I had no such feeling with what the society lovingly prepared. And my hat is off to them for the rice balls with plum I took home. They were quite tasty and very filling.

The culture on offer was something many first time visitors could sink their teeth into. The first performance in the Jubilee Hall was by Uminari Taiko, who are celebrating their 15th anniversary this year. Their opening song of “Stepping Stones” could be felt through one’s body. It stirred me almost to the point of donning samurai armour. With a song such as this, one could almost believe they are Toshiro Mifune charging into an opposing army on horseback with sword in hand.

And if one didn’t stick around the hall for the demonstrations of Kendo by the Victoria Kendo Club, one could wander to one could wander to a nearby room and learn about tea ceremonies by Chado Urasenke Tankokai Victoria Association, haiku poetry by Terry Ann Carter, or how to grow your own Japanese vegetables by Umi Nami Farm. Being my second visit in this event’s 18-year history, my mind was more focused on the tables of baked goods, used goods, and silent auctions that were set out before me in the Jubilee Hall.

My companion, Anne from Cullis Market in Langford, was happy with the three Japanese cookbooks she found at 50 cents a piece. I, on the other hand, was having a much more difficult time finding what my heart truly desired. I did make a purchase of new chopsticks and almost bought a yukata (a kimono for males) but turned it down based on style. I spent some time searching the tables and passed on many things. I’m too old for a Doraemon bento box, not enough of a drinker to buy a sake set, and it was too early in the year to purchase a New Year’s decoration meant to bless everyone within the household (but I will be contacting the society to purchase one later). I was about to walk away disappointed when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something that hasn’t excited me this much since I bought the Super Robot Spirits Tour ’99 CD set at Fan Expo Vancouver.

Taiko

There on a table with serveware was a set of four teacups each adorned with a sumo wrestler. For $5 each ($20 for the set) I walked away with Musashimaru, Tatoriki, Takanohana, and my favourite sumo wrestler of all, Akebono. All of the wrestlers were active in the mid to late 1990’s and this means they are a hard item to find for fans of sumo (I started watching sumo in 1992).

With teacups wrapped and tucked in a cloth bag (also bought from a dealer’s table) I cut my visit short. Perhaps in future, this fair will expand to include offerings for those who have a moderate knowledge of Japanese culture. For now, it’s a great event to socialize and make connections. Maybe I’ll see classes held on the subjects of tebori (traditional Japanese tattoo art), rakugo (a verbal form of entertainment), manzai (Japanese stand-up comedy now more popular than ever) and Shinto celebrations throughout the year.

With this year’s event wrapped up, this Japanophile has become a Japanoholic, because I’m looking forward to drinking up what Nikkei offers next year. Is there a 12-step program for people like me? Ed appeared at this event and has his own thoughts, which he is expressed at TwoHungryBlokes.com

For those interested, here is a short list of organizations/clubs you can reach out to and connect with:

British Columbia Aikido Federation

Central Vancouver Island Japanese-Canadian Cultural Society

Japan Victoria Friends Meetup Group

Japanese Canadian Community Organization of Victoria (JCCO Victoria)

University of Victoria Anime Club

Vancouver Island Bonsai Society

Victoria Japanese Friendship Society

Victoria Japanese Organic Cooking Meetup

Victoria Kendo Club

Victoria Morioka Friendship Society

Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society

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