Matsuri Festival at Japan House incorporates Indian culture

Japan House will host its fifth Matsuri Festival on Sept. 8. The event celebrates Asian culture through food, activities and performances. Courtesy Japan House

AUG 28, 2019 9:30 AM
JODI HECKEL

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Japan House’s Matsuri Festival – an annual festival celebrating Japanese culture – will expand this year to include a recognition of Indian culture.

Matsuri is a kickoff to the school year and a welcome for international students, as well as a way to exhibit Japanese culture through food, activities and performances. The fifth Matsuri Festival will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Sept. 8 on the grounds of the University of Illinois Arboretum and Japan House, 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana. The festival is free, family friendly and open to the public.

The festival has added new elements each year from different cultures, particularly through its Asian-inspired food offerings, said Michael Darin, the education and experience coordinator at Japan House. Last year, it focused on Thai and Korean food.

The Ho Etsu Taiko drum group of Chicago will return to perform at this year’s Matsuri Festival.
Courtesy Japan House

But Darin has not seen many events in the community that combined Indian culture with that of other Asian countries. He talked with students from Japan House classes, including two Indian students who have been very involved in its programs, and they were enthusiastic about adding activities related to Indian culture.

“I think this will bring a new crowd since there is a large Indian population on campus,” Darin said. He noted that Asian countries share many similarities in food, clothing and traditions.

“There are similar spices in Indian food and Korean food, but how is it translated differently? I love the idea of trying to get people to understand history through food, through clothing, through henna,” Darin said.

The festival will feature the Illini Ishaara dance group, a registered student organization that performs modern and classical Indian dance. It will add henna and mehndi art – the tradition of painting the hands and feet using a paste made from the henna plant – to its Japanese calligraphy tattoos. The food vendors will include Aroma Indian Restaurant from Bloomington, Illinois.

Hunger Force Mobile Kitchen will offer Filipino food at the festival for the first time. Other food offerings include pizzas from Dragon Fire Pizza and Oh Honey Pie; vegetarian, vegan and Japanese food from Common Ground Food Co-op; and Chinese food from Fresh International Market.

Other new aspects of the festival this year are expanded hours to start earlier in the day and a focused children’s area with bubbles and games.

Michiyoshi Sato, a Japanese tsugaru-jamisen player, will perform on a traditional Japanese three-stringed instrument similar to a banjo.
Courtesy Japan House
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Matsuri Festival at Japan House incorporates Indian culture
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Matsuri Festival at Japan House incorporates Indian culture
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Japan House’s Matsuri Festival – an annual festival celebrating Japanese culture – will expand this year to include a recognition of Indian culture.