AUG 28, 2019 9:30 AM
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.
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.
Adults wanting to sample sake and Japanese-inspired beer will be able to wander the festival with their drinks. In the past, alcohol was restricted to a specific area. Triptych Brewing will make a special beer exclusively for the Matsuri Festival, and Maverick Wines will offer sake tastings.
The number of craft booths has expanded as well, including a demonstration by graphic designer Taekyeom Lee who specializes in 3D printing. He makes spinning tops with a 3D printer, attaches a marker to them and they create a pattern similar to a Spirograph. He also makes 3D-printed rings with pieces that fit together like a puzzle.
The festival will include performances by the Ho Etsu Taiko drum group; martial arts demonstrations; Masaji Terasawa, known as “The Candyman,” a street performer making candy sculptures; Japanese tsugaru-jamisen player Michiyoshi Sato; and the Japanese all-female band The 188.8.131.52’s.
Activities will include ikebana (flower arranging), origami, yukata (summer kimono) and cosplay dressing, Japanese tea ceremonies and tours of the Arboretum by the Master Gardeners.
Those attending the festival are encouraged to dress in traditional costumes such as Indian sari, Japanese yukata, Korean hanbok or cosplay.
The Matsuri Festival will conclude with fireworks.
Food and drink tickets can be purchased online in advance of the festival.