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Chicago Shimpo
62nd “Ginza Holiday” Celebration Is Most Successful in Its History

“Ginza Holiday,” a three-day summer celebration of the Japanese food and culture, attracted a record number of visitors during its 62nd festivity from August 11 through 13 at the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago.

“There is no doubt that we had what appears to be our most successful Ginza festival,” according to Albert Sora, Ginza Holiday Festival Chairman. “It’s a social gathering place for relatives and friends, many of whom don’t see each other often during the year.”

Ginza Holiday, organized with the aim of promoting the understanding of Japanese culture, features demonstrations of Japanese music, dance, traditional crafts and martial arts as well as a variety of Japanese food. One of the main attractions at the festival, the famous teriyaki chicken, was so popular that the organizers had to make an additional purchase of chicken during the last day of the festival.

Even the weather was cooperating. “We saw the earlier forecast of rain had improved, so we took a risk and increased our chicken purchase, hoping that a better weather will bring a large crowd,” Sora explained. It turned out as he hoped, and brought the record number of visitors, according to Sora.

In addition to the teriyaki chicken, the festival offered more mouth-watering food such as udon noodles, rolled sushi, grilled corn on a cob, spam rice balls, teriyaki veggie burgers, Hawaiian shaved ice, edamame, cold draft beer and sake. On the stage, performances of taiko drum, traditional Japanese dance, music, and martial arts entertained the audience. Vendors’ booths decorated with colorful lanterns attracted shoppers with Japanese antiques, kimono, potteries, ukiyo-e prints, scrolls, origami art, accessories and snacks.

One of the ukiyo-e vendors, Ron Valle, is from Chicago and lived for three years in Yokohama and another three in Tokyo while in his 20s. Since then, he has been collecting ukiyo-e prints while learning about its art form.
He said he was selling his prints “way cheap” because he wanted to make them affordable so that more people can own ukiyo-e prints. That’s his way to “spread his love for ukiyo-e,” Valle said.

Each year, Ginza Holiday offers a rare opportunity to watch traditional Japanese artisans (“Waza” masters) work, interact with them and purchase their works at affordable prices. This year, the festival invited from Japan Emika Iwashita of Tokyo-some fabric design, Masaaki Yamada of Edo-kiriko cut glass, Meisho Yamasaki of Ichimatsu dolls, and Eiji Kinoshita of traditional Japanese pottery.

Japanese Pottery by Eiji Kinoshita

Appearing at Ginza Holiday for the first time more than 30 years ago, Kinoshita has been a regular participant of Ginza for the past 10 years. Many fans look forward to his appearance at Ginza each year, and this year, most of his major works sold out on the first day.
He has been invited to the opening ceremony of the Japan Gallery in November by the Detroit Institute of Arts, along with Kokan Fujimura of Ichimatsu dolls, Chihiro Kawakami of dyed art tenugui and Mitsuaki Yokoya of wood carvings and sculptures, all of whom have appeared at Ginza in the past.

When the Detroit Institute of Arts was in financial trouble and its collection was on the brink of being put up for sale, Japanese businesses assisted it in rebuilding itself as a private operation. A traveling exhibition of the museum’s collection was held in Japan last year. All these connections led to the opening of the Japan Gallery.

Kinoshita has been dreaming of exhibiting works of Japanese artisans at a museum in the United States. He negotiated with the Art Institute of Chicago but it didn’t work out. The opening of the Japan Gallery in Detroit means a dream come true for him, Kinoshita said – the museum already has a three-year budget plan in place for continuous exhibition in the Japan Gallery. Some of the museum’s executives came to see the Ginza Holiday festival and the participating artisans, Kinoshita said.
Kinoshita and his artisan friends plan to visit schools and businesses in Michigan after the opening ceremony to connect with the people in that state through talks and demonstrations.

Tokyo-some Komon by Emika Iwashita

Iwashita, a fabric designer of Tokyo-some komon (the traditional art of dyeing kimono fabric with intricate, repeated patterns), made her first appearance at Ginza. She normally designs for kimono and obi, but she brought to Ginza accessories and small items which are more accessible to regular shoppers.

While Tokyo-some komon has both large- and small-pattern designs, the small patterns of “Edo-komon” were originated in the Edo period, used for a samurai’s formal kimono (“kamishimo”). The idea was that a different komon pattern for a different han (feudal domain) would make it easier to tell which samurai belonged to which han in the Edo Castle, where samurais gathered from all over Japan. Edo-komon then became popular among common people from the Meiji period onward.

Due to its requirement as a han uniform, Edo-komon used a technique of “mass production” – using a stencil to dye the fabric. It requires repeatedly placing the same stencil on a 13-meter-long fabric. According to Iwashita, it is the critical skill of a Tokyo-some craftsman to dye so that the pattern continues on the fabric seamlessly.

After having studied textile at an art college, Iwashita began as an apprentice of stencil dyeing with her fascination of kimono. Iwashita, a third generation kimono seller that deals with Kyo-Yuzen (silk dyeing) fabrics, didn’t even know the difference between the hand-dyed Kyo-Yuzen and stencil dyeing at the beginning, she said.
Traditionally a man’s work, stencil dyeing is physically demanding for a woman, requiring a lot of bending and lifting heavy things. Iwashita survived the 14-year training, and has been the master of an independent workshop for 10 years now.

Edo-Kiriko Cut Glass by Masaaki Yamada

Yamada, the Edo-kiriko glass maker, also attended Ginza for the first time.
Kiriko glass has a double structure, where a thin sheet of colored glass is placed over colorless base glass. Delicate designs are carved with a diamond wheel into the colored glass of blue, amber and other colors.

Each pattern consists of a square unit, the combination of which creates a variety of designs. The process is highly intensive manual work so Yamada can finish only a few products a day if the design is intricate. That makes the glass expensive, but he said his works at Ginza were priced much lower than in Japan. To make a point, someone casually bought a $160 glassware while he was being interviewed.
In Japan, his glass works can be purchased at Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. They are also available on the internet and at special events at department stores.

Yamada is a third-generation artisan of Edo-kiriko. Although initially he didn’t intend to continue his family business, now it’s been 23 years since he began learning the craft.
“You do the same thing again and again each day, so you get used to the technical part of it. It’s the designing that’s more difficult,” Yamada said. “More intricate patterns are required today, so we must create new designs by using many different patterns. A difference in the crossing angle of a square unit makes a whole different pattern.”

Famous teriyaki chicken in Ginza Holiday

Emika Iwashita, a fabric designer of Tokyo-some komon

Masaaki Yamada, the Edo-kiriko glass maker

Eiji Kinoshita, traditional Japanese pottery maker