Chicago Shimpo
Ginza Holiday 2018 Continues Tradition of Japanese Summer Festival in Chicago

• Ginza Holiday, the annual three-day celebration of Japan’s food and culture, was held in Chicago August 10 – 12, feasting the eyes and taste buds of Chicagoans with traditional handicrafts and festival food favorites.

• Launched as a fundraising event by Midwest Buddhist Temple, Ginza Holiday now celebrates 63 years of sharing the flavor of Japan’s traditional summer festival and cultural heritage with the people of Chicago and beyond.

• The premises of the temple were filled with rows of vendors offering colorful Japanese arts and crafts, antiques, accessories, T-shirts and kimonos while the food court lured the hungry visitors with udon noodles, sushi, spam rice balls, edamame, corn on a cob and ice-cold beer as well as the smoke-fuming famous teriyaki chicken.
• One of the new vendors this year was Kujira Japanese Arts and Craft Community, with a booth for purses, accessories and Japanese sandals made with colorful kimono fabrics. Ohio Kimono, an online Japanese kimono store, also offered a variety of kimonos and obi (sash), including some hard-to-find items such as gauze-like silk summer juban (undergarment kimono).
• On the stage were the performers of back-to-back entertainment and demonstrations including Japanese folk dance, taiko drum and koto harp, Hawaiian music and dance, and martial arts such as judo, aikido and kendo.

• “The Waza” event is the special feature of Ginza Holiday to offer visitors an occasion to see demonstration by Japanese traditional craft masters and buy their handiworks. This year’s participating masters were Yuzo Mouri, a third-generation artisan of bamboo craft from Oita Prefecture; Masahiro Kawakami, also a third-generation maker of dye-painting tenugui (Japanese hand towel) from Asakusa, Tokyo; Yoko Kamada, a shiatsu acupressure practitioner from Hokkaido; and Eiji Kinoshita, an earthenware creator from Oita Prefecture.

• Mouri made his first appearance at Ginza Holiday with his bamboo craftwork featuring purses, chopsticks and accessories, following the footsteps of his father, Kenichi.
• Kenichi is Mouri’s trainer and master as well as his father. Mouri, who worked as a company employee in Tokyo until the age of 25, returned to hometown to follow his father’s path and began training for the craft five years ago because he realized that his “had been the best possible environment” to learn the craft in.
• “I grew up watching what’s going on [in the shop] and I always loved to make things with my hands,” recalled Mouri.
• One of the hardest things to learn in bamboo craft is the designing process, according to Mouri.
• Oita is rich with naturally grown bamboo, and Mouri’s bamboo craft requires the limited part of the bamboo – the “skin” of it – as raw material. That’s only 10% of the entire bamboo.
• “You can become good at harvesting good material by repeating the process again and again, but designing is a different matter. It requires a good sense,” Mouri said. “For example, I could make use of what I experience here in Chicago as a source of my inspiration for design – that’s a critical process.”
• His first Ginza Holiday experience has been invigorating for Mouri.
• “People over here are more animated to show interest [in my work] than people in Japan; they say it’s ‘so beautiful’ with a sparkle in their eyes.”
While he has a high degree of respect for his father, Mouri doesn’t hesitate to express his desire for developing crafts with his own sense and creativity.
• The Mouri family runs a chain of bamboo craft shops called “Chikukousai,” located in Oita and Tokyo, while their exhibition/sale is frequently held at department stores across Japan. Visit https://www.chikukousai.com for more information.

• Kawakami represented Fuji-ya, a dye-painting tenugui shop located in Tokyo’s famous tourist spot Asakusa.
• The shop’s third-generation artisan, Kawakami sees it a contemporary trend among foreign tourists to go out in yukata, the light summer kimono in various colors and designs.
• “We have quite a lot of foreign customers come to our shop,” Kawakami commented. As for the trend in tenugui, he said: “As it’s so hot this summer, tenugui with ‘cool’ designs like snow and water in ‘cool’ colors such as blue are selling well. The impression it [tenugui] gives to others is pretty important to consider.”

• Acupressurist Yoko Kamada returned to Ginza for the second time since 2015, when her acupressure massage caused a sensation. This time, again, she was fully booked throughout the festival.
• “It’s such a fun time; I’m so happy that so many people have come,” said Kamada with a big smile, as she saw off her last customer.
• “My fingers? Just fine. I feel so fortunate to be here in Chicago again,” she added.

• Eiji Kinoshita is now a familiar face at Ginza. Coming back to Chicago repeatedly for 16 years, he has many fans of his handmade potteries.
• His large-size works usually sell out during the first day of the festival. His unique earthenware again attracted many visitors this year.

• Kinoshita was one of the four Japanese artisans who were invited to the opening ceremony of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Japan Gallery last November. Others included Ichimatsu Doll maker Kokan Fujimura, dye-painting tenugui maker Chihiro Kawakami and wood carver Mitsuaki Yokoya.
• They were invited through Kinoshita’s network.

• The Japan Gallery has been added to the Detroit Institute of Arts (“DIA”) to commemorate the fresh start of the museum, as some of the Japanese corporations in the area offered donations as part of the effort to keep the museum from auctioning off its world-class collections during Detroit’s financial crisis.
• The two-day event featuring Japanese culture followed the opening ceremony and attracted a total of 7,500 visitors, in a stark contrast to the 4,000 visitors to the Monet exhibition that was held shortly before the ceremony.

• Kinoshita, whose earthenware exhibition attracted enthusiastic buyers, hosted a pottery workshop during the two-day event. A local college offered its students up to two credits for participating in the workshop.
• Kawakami had prepared several tenugui towels with Detroit scenery dye-painted, which all sold out so that he was actually out of a sample to demonstrate with during his lecture. Kawakami, along with Ichimatsu Doll maker Fujimura, held several lectures at Michigan State University as well as the museum.
• Yokoya grabbed the attention of the visitors with his intricate wooden mirror frame, which had been curved and painted with natural mineral pigment on both sides.
• This event also featured Japanese artisans of traditional sweets making, Japanese paper making and more.

• Kinoshita, who was pivotal in connecting Ginza Holiday’s artisans and the DIA Japan Gallery, stressed his appreciation of the ties between the two. “Volunteer translators for Ginza Holiday drove all the way to Detroit to attend the opening ceremony,” he said.


Yuzo Mouri, a third generation artisan of bamboo craft from Oita Prefecture, Japan


Mouri's works


The all-day stage entertains the visitors.


Volunteers grill tasty chicken teriyaki at Ginza Holiday.