The 34th Annual Arizona MATSURI: A Festival of Japan Held in Phoenix


The 34th Annual Arizona MATSURI: A Festival of Japan was held at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix, Arizona on February 24-25, 2018. The Arizona Matsuri is a two-day celebration of Japanese culture organized by the Arizona Matsuri Steering Committee whose mission is to introduce the culture of Japan to Arizona. It is estimated that around 70,000 people attended this year’s event, with hundreds of performers, vendors, and organizations over the two days.


This year’s Arizona Matsuri began with a mikoshi (portable shrine) procession led by Ondo dancers made up of organizers, performers, and festival-goers. After the procession made its way around Heritage and Science Park in Downtown Phoenix, the Opening Ceremony began where City of Phoenix Councilmember Daniel Valenzuela and Consul General Akira Chiba provided remarks. This year’s festival theme was the kokeshi, which are hand-crafted wooden dolls painted with intricate and colorful designs.


The Japan Information and Culture Center of the Consulate General of Japan Los Angeles also operated a booth located in the Lath House area. Hundreds of visitors dropped by the booth, collecting hundreds of English-language Niponica magazines, Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program pamhplets, Ministry of Education (MEXT) scholarship pamphlets, and various other materials inlcuding brochures from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Japan Foundation, NHK World, and the recently opened JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles. Some of the visitors also tried their hand at an omikuji-style game for a chance at a small prize. (Omikuji are “fortune-telling” paper strips or wooden sticks that can be found at shrines and temples in Japan.)


This year, the Consulate General of Japan Los Angeles also brought along a kendama performance duo named “Zoomadanke.” The group, made up of players Kodaman and Easy, mix music, dance, and kendama (Japanese ball-and-cup) to create electrifying performances. They wowed crowds at two stages during the festival with a total of five well-choreographed performances over the two days of Matsuri.


Also new this year was the TV show, “Who Wants to Go to Japan,” which operated a booth and had cameramen interviewing several visitors for a chance to win a trip to Japan. Additionally, children were able to enjoy a “passport stamp rally” that had them visiting various sections of the festival to collect stamps and become eligible for Japan-themed prizes.


The Arizona Matsuri was a lively event with Canary English Rakugo Company coming back after a two-year absence. After a four-year absence, the Yonezawa family also returned to provide kazari-making workshops. Sunny and Judy Seki also came back to entertain the crowds with an original play based on the Matsuri’s kokeshi theme. In addition to the performances on stage, festival goers were also treated to authentic Japanese food and cultural demonstrations inlcuding Japanese dance, martial arts, music, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, and cosplay. And, returning with over 1,250 entries this year was the Haiku Expo.


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