Japan Festival Makes Second Largest Success
Featuring Okinawan Culture and English Rakugo
• Japan Festival was held on June 2 and 3 at the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights. With pleasant weather and the temperature in the upper 70s, more than 7,400 visitors enjoyed a variety of Japanese culture in the two-day event. The number of participants marked the second largest since the festival was moved to the Northwest area from Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.
• This year, Okinawa’s culture was featured. Bright colors of Okinawa crafts and goods, which were displayed in the hallway, welcomed the visitors. Food samples from Okinawa such as Chinsukoh cookies, brown sugar, and plum candies were served to the visitors.
• Paper cutout artist Hyakkimaru’s works were displayed
on the walls of the Field House. Samurai and women’s figures, which were
6.5 to 13 feet high, dazzled the visitors. Many of them asked him his
autograph on a hand towel, which was imprinted on one of his works.
• The walls were also decorated by huge Tanabata (Star Festival) ornaments, which were prepared by the Los Angeles Tanabata Matsuri and brought to Arlington Heights by Ryo Sato. The biggest ornament was an award-winning piece from Sendai in Japan, where an annual ornament competition was held. Sato, gold medalist of 1980 Culinary Olympics, has devoted himself to introduce Tanabata ornaments to the world and has held workshops in South Africa, Dubai, and other places.
• In the opening ceremony, Naoki Ito, Consulate General
of Japan in Chicago, thanked the Chicago Japanese American Council, the
host of the festival, and its 12 umbrella organizations and volunteers
for their hard work that enabled the festival to be held.
• Carol Blackwood, Trustee of the Village of Arlington
Heights, welcomed Japan Festival and said that the students and their
parents of her neighboring high school were on the way to the festival
because last year’s dances and taiko drumming were wonderful.
• Japan Festival opened with national anthems of Japan and the U.S., sung by Hisashi Shoji, followed by Soran dance performances by the students of Futabakai Japanese Day School.
• At the Field House, kyudo, iaido, shinkendo, kendo, aikido, taiko drummings, karate, and judo were demonstrated one after another.
• In the theatre, awaodori, taiko drumming, chorus, Japanese traditional dance, music concerts, cosplay contest, koto music, ukulele, and flamenco dances were performed.
• In the Board Room, tea ceremonies were demonstrated by the Urasenke Chicago Association.
• In the Exhibition Room, shodo (Japanese calligraphy), origami, ikebana (flower arrangements), Japanese swards, bonsai, violin making processes, programs and services by the Japan-related organizations were introduced.
• At the hallway, samurai armor try-on, fruit and vegetable carvings, and some others were presented.
• In the marketplace adjacent to the Field House, Japanese flavored accessories, crafts, arts, collectibles, ceramics, and more things were sold to the visitors.
• The children’s corner offered yo-yo-fishing and goldfish fishing. Nostalgic Japanese snacks and toys attracted not only kids but also adults.
• Japanese food is one of the most anticipated treats at the festival every year. This year, cold noodles, takoyaki, lunch boxes, burgers, and hot dogs were on the menu.
• Okinawa’s traditional folk music and dances were featured
at the Field House on the second day of the festival, and the audience
filled every seat of the venue.
• The entire showcase was directed by Yasuhide Uezu,
President of “Ryujindensetsu (Legend of the Dragon King)” in Okinawa.
He said that he wanted to make the show like a narrative scroll, which
described a series of Okinawan culture in one place.
Rakugo Performance by Sunshine
• Katsura Sunshine’s rakugo performance was held on the
evening of the first day of the festival, and the theatre was a full house
with 400 people. He wittily picked some Japanese habits, which most Japanese
people don’t pay attention to, and made people laugh. For example, when
you sit on tatami matt or floor in the seiza style, you bend your knees
and put your hip on your legs. It is a formal way of sitting in Japan,
and Sunshine has to do it when he talks about rakugo stories. He said,
“English translation of seiza is ‘punishment.’”
Interview with Katsura Sunshine
• Katsura Sunshine studied classics at the University
of Toronto. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the Ancient Comic
Opera Company, and wrote a musical version of Aristophanes’ Clouds, which
ran for 14 months in Canada.
Q: Could you tell us your current activities?
• Sunshine: I moved to New York last year and have been
planning a long run at off Broadway.
Q: Did you have other overseas tours?
• Sunshine: Last year in the fall, I performed rakugo for three weeks in London’s Leicester Square Theatre, then three weeks in New York off Broadway at SoHo Playhouse. Now I live in New York and looking for a theatre.
Q: You mean that you are not going to perform in Japan?
• Sunshine: Yes, I do. I’m going to go to Japan next week, so I may be spreading my time between Tokyo and New York, but my main project now is New York.
Q: You are wearing a very nice kimono.
• Sunshine: I started kimono fashion designing, and this
kimono is my original design.
Q: Thank you very much.