Chicago Shimpo
Ginza Holiday Brimmed with Visitors
Featuring Special Guest Artists from Japan

• One of the major Japanese summer festivals in Chicago, Ginza Holiday was held at the Midwest Buddhist Temple in the Old Town district for its 64th year.
• True to its roots, the three-day celebration, from August 10 to 12, was attended by bustling visitors from the local community and across the Chicagoland area, featuring the theme of a typical old-fashioned Japanese summer festival.
• Also a fundraising event, it aims to contribute to the local Japanese-American community through sharing Japanese culture.

• Colorful items ranging from potteries, jewelries and origami art to hanging scrolls and T-shirts filled a number of booths spreading across the temple’s parking lot, while bonsai and flower arrangement displays invited visitors into the inside of the temple.

• The main stage featured performances throughout the day, including taiko drumming, classical Japanese dance, martial arts such as kendo, judo and aikido, and Hawaiian music.
• Rev. Ron Miyamura from the temple presented a talk, an introduction to Buddhism, at the temple’s main chapel during the intermissions of the stage performances.

• One of the major attractions of Ginza Holiday, the famous Teriyaki Chicken, again lured the visitors with its irresistible smell. In the food court were other Japanese treats, such as cold udon, sushi rolls, roasted corn-on-the cob, Spam musubi, edamame, shaved ice and ice-cold beer.

• Another treat at the event was the opportunity to meet traditional Japanese craft artists in person and purchase their works in the “Waza” special feature.
• This year, Ginza invited “regulars” including the pottery maker Eiji Kinoshita from Oita Prefecture and hand-made tenugui (Japanese hand towel) maker Masahiro Kawakami from Asakusa, Tokyo.
• New faces this year included Takeshi Ichigi, a Japanese confectionary artist from Oita Prefecture, and Kimiko Inoue, an “Ikkanbari” paper-on-bamboo artist from Fukuoka Prefecture.

WAZA Artists from Japan

• Takeshi Ichigi of Musashiya Sohonten, a traditional Japanese confectionary shop, came from Nakatsu City, Oita.
• Founded in 1924, Musashiya Sohonten is known as the inventor of an instant “shiruko” (a traditional Japanese dessert of sweet porridge using Azuki red beans, often with “mochi” rice cake).
• Struggling to create new sweets that would represent his home town, the founder of the shop, Takejuro Ichigi, came up with the idea of instant shiruko while he was strolling on the nearby beach, which was known for abundant clams and gracefully flying plovers.
• The shiruko he created comes in a clam-shaped shell of wafers and contains dried red bean paste. When hot water is poured in, the bean paste dissolves and small red and white mochi, shaped like plovers, come floating out of the bean paste. This invention, called Hamaguri Shiruko (“Clam Shiruko”), has been the shop’s specialty for 80 years now.

• Takeshi Ichigi (40), the 4th-generation owner of Musashiya, appeared at Ginza for the first time to demonstrate the “wagashi” (traditional Japanese confectionary) making.

• Ichigi, practicing wagashi making since the age of 18, continued to work with his hands all day in his booth, creating colorful, lovely Japanese sweets in a variety of shapes and flavors.
• He had brought the pre-prepared base of the confections – white bean paste – from Japan. Made of white navy beans, the base requires a lot of working to be ready for use, normally taking about two days to prepare.
• Ichigi uses 100% natural coloring agents for his sweets – the soft pink is from Benibana (safflower), green from seaweed, white from gardenia, and yellow from hot pepper (processed to remove the natural heat). These agents are used in different proportions or mixed together to create an infinite variation of colors, while the colored base is shaped with traditional tools such as wooden molds and spatulas.
• Rows of sweets made by Ichigi caught the eye of many festival goers with their pretty colors and shapes, but they were not for sale due to the city ordinance. Instead, pre-packaged instant Clam Shiruko and dora-yaki (pancake sandwich with red bean paste) that Ichigi had brought from Japan were selling “like pancakes.”

• Ichigi said his business in his hometown has been good, despite the ongoing decline of the number of traditional wagashi makers.
• Rather, the shortage of makers itself, he explained, is pushing up the value of wagashi today.
• Nakatsu City has many teachers of the Omotesenke School of tea ceremony, and demand for wagashi, which is part of tea ceremony requirements, is high.
• “We receive orders every day,” Ichigi said.

• Ichigi’s father, who had learned Western confectionary making, is now making wagashi.
• The founder, Ichigi’s great-grandfather Takejuro, had been long gone when he was born. He had heard about Takejuro, however, as he grew up, as a man of charisma who was ahead of the curve to always try something new. He was also a man of stubborn conviction that he would have stopped making a wagashi of his own creation if someone else would start selling its imitation. All in all, Ichigi thinks that Takejuro’s impact on the wagashi industry was immeasurable.

• “My great-grandfather spread wagashi of his creation extensively, and I believe I carry on his DNA. It’s that DNA that made me come to Ginza – I hope this will help introduce wagashi to as many people as possible,” Ichigi said.

• In addition to selling wagashi, Musashiya Sohonten hosts various cultural events such as a collaboration exhibition of wagashi and works by pottery maker Kinoshita, who is based in the same prefecture of Oita.

• In the booth of Kimiko Inoue, maker of Ikkanbari craft, on display were several purses, bags, wall hangings and accessories that were made using old bamboo baskets and crafts.
• Ikkanbari is a craft originated from off-season farmers’ handiwork. It is said that when the off season came, farmers would patch up old, worn-out tools, many of them made of bamboo, with used cloth and paper. It could be a harbinger of today’s recycling.
• Inoue got interested in Ikkanbari 20 years ago during a chance meeting with an Ikkanbari artist. Since then, she has taught herself the craft with the help of books and practicing artists.

• Inoue takes a bamboo basket and pastes together hand-crafted Japanese paper to cover it. On that prepared foundation, she glues various materials, including vintage children’s kimono and old carp streamers, to give her work different artistic flavors, ranging from retro art to avant-garde.

• She usually works at home, holding a gallery exhibition once a year.
• She has recently been reunited with pottery maker Kinoshita, who is one of her old schoolmates, and joined him at Ginza.
• “I’d love to have people come and see and touch my work in person,” she said. “I thought it would be great to be able to sell my work face to face to the visitors.”

• Pottery maker Eiji Kinoshita is a veteran at Ginza, appearing for the 17 consecutive years.
• He is known well among returning visitors of Ginza, and his major works are typically sold out on the first day of the festival. In 2017, he was invited to the opening ceremony of the Japan Gallery of the Detroit Museum, where he presented a highly acclaimed pottery demonstration.

• The new line of works by Kinoshita this year was picture frames. A rarity, Kinoshita’s ceramic frames were the focus of attention in Detroit.
• According to Kinoshita, ceramic frames are notoriously difficult to make – they often fail to keep their shape during the process of quenching in the kiln, and only half of what’s processed will turn up as marketable products. Nonetheless, he wanted to show the unique features of ceramic frames in Chicago, Kinoshita said.

Ginza Holiday Visitors

• Among the crowd were the Araya family, including Setsuko Araya, her husband, his brother and his mother.
• Setsuko and her husband met on the Internet. She is from Japan; he was born in Japan and moved to Chicago when he was 8. “So that makes me almost a Japanese American, I suppose?” he said with a smile.
• This is the family’s second visit to Ginza Holiday since last year. It’s the first visit in 12 years for Mr. Araya’s brother.
• Mr. Araya’s mother said people are nice here, just as Setsuko is nice to her. “We’ve come from Tokyo a long time ago and have been living in the Chicago area ever since. I won’t go anywhere. This is the place for me,” she said.

• The Guereca family from the western suburb has made it a rule to come to Ginza Holiday for six years now. They enjoy the food, and the children love the Taiko performance.
• Mr. and Mrs. Guereca love Japanese anime so much that they have named their two daughters “Izanami” and “Yukari” respectively, taken from Japanese comics and anime stories.
• According to the Guerecas, they watch anime often. “I just watched a show and I loved it – I love anime’s style, stories, and music,” Mrs. Guereca said.

• Claire from Chicago said she loved Ginza and had been coming to the festival for the last 20 years.
• She said she loves it each time she comes here.
• “I love the traditional art of Japan, like classical dance and Japanese drumming . . . I love the folk dance too, with the ladies with umbrellas. Everything is cool,” she said.
• In her kimono that she had bought 25 years ago in Tokyo, Claire said she and her husband travel around the world now that they are both retired.

• Joanne Lawrence came to Ginza from Aurora. She has been coming to the festival for a number of years now.
• She said she and her family enjoy Ginza a lot. “You can dip in Japanese culture and enjoy shopping and food. There’s a little bit of everything here,” Lawrence said. “It’s fabulous – I ate the whole Teriyaki chicken.”

Takeshi Ichigi of Musashiya Sohonten demonstrates wagashi making.

Visitors enjoy eating teriyaki chicken and more food.

Ryan Toguri grills teriyaki chickens.

Ikkanbari craft maker Kimiko Inoue explains a visitor about her crafts.

Takeshi Ichigi (L) and Eiji Kinoshita

Araya family

Anime fans, Guereca family

Long-time Ginza visitor Claire

Joanne Lawrence (C)