“MESSAGE TO THE VISITORS OF MATSURI JAPAN FESTIVAL 2018”
Mr. Yushiro Mizukoshi, Matsuri Executive Committee Chairperson and Ms. Kazuko Chalker, Previous Chairperson
Matsuri Japan Festival 2018 is a Japanese festival which is annually held at the Darling Harbour in Sydney. Many of those who live in Australia come and enjoy Matsuri every year and the number of visitors reached 50,000 in 2007. Through this event, you can enjoy Japanese food at stalls (yatai) and stage performances and experience Japanese culture such as Japanese flower arrangement (Ikebana), tea ceremony, calligraphy, and origami as well as a participatory portable shrine (Omikoshi) this year. Comparing the first Japanese festival in Sydney with one in 2017, visitors varied from hundreds to more than 50,000 and the scale of this festival has been increasing. In the background that they continues this festival every year, Japan Club of Sydney (JCS) played a key role to appeal to the Japanese government-related organization and engaged in the central activity at the festival executive committee. This time, I had an interview with the previous chairperson of the Japan Club of Sydney Kazuko Chalker who strived to manage Matsuri and chairperson Yushiro Mizukoshi!
What led to hosting Matsuri Japan Festival?
Mr.Mizukoshi: Originally JCS held a Bon-Odori (Bon festival dance) event, and it was the beginning that the bigger scale festival was held by the Japanese government in 2006 as the 30th anniversary year since Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation concluded. After that, the desire that we would like to continue this festival made us, JCS, to play a key role and hold an annual summer festival. We organised the executive committee with the Consulate General, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Japanese association and manage Matsuri with them, which has formed today’s Matsuri Japan Festival.
In the beginning, do you have any impression on Matsuri in 2017?
Ms. Chalker: First, the temperature was high and it was hot last year. It caused some people got heatstroke or burned. Even though the open time was 11 am, approximately 20 people had already kept place sitting on the chair arranged in front of the stage. Around 12 pm, there were so many people that the flow could be seen. Advertising the event on SNS was likely to make this success last year. From last year some people who are good at using SNS participated in the executive committee and it may have led to attracting visitors successfully.
Mr. Mizukoshi: It’s Bon-Odori for me. We established a tower/scaffold (yagura) for Bon-Odori for the first time and danced Bon-Odori together. Until then we just did Bon-Odori in front of the stage, however, last year, so many visitors gathered that they could push one another or their back pressed together and I was so happy. Dancing Bon-Odori around yagura was much better rather than without it. Beating a drum on yagura created Matsuri atmosphere more as well.
How would you like to make future Matsuri?
Ms. Chalker: At the beginning, we wanted Japanese people live in Sydney to be happy by enlivenment of the Japanese community. In addition, we would like to make those who like Japanese culture and live in Australia happy as well. Many of Japanese descent live in Sydney cannot feel Japanese culture closely such as village festivals held at shrine and temple. The scenery around them from birth is Australian view. Therefore, it is difficult to teach Japanese culture to them with Australian social background. Even if they use SNS and the Internet, it is not enough to know Japanese culture. There are no Japanese scenery surrounding them, so I would be happy if visitors can feel Japanese atmosphere and experience Japanese culture at Matsuri with red and white striped curtain, yagura and lantern.
Mr. Mizukoshi: If both Japanese and Australian people enjoy the scene and atmosphere of the Japanese festival in some ways or other peacefully and friendly, that would be the best.
Are there any differences between the past Matsuri and present one?
Ms. Chalker: We used to manage Matsuri to create an atmosphere of Japanese festival in the village even a little, however, the meaning of Matsuri has been changing over times. Currently, many of those who live in Australia and love Japan rather than Japanese come and join Matsuri. The manga and anime boom make younger people wear costumes and come together and enjoy Japanese food stalls and stage performances as well as people planning to visit Japan can get travel information at Matsuri. In addition, those who play Japanese martial arts in Australia also participate in this event. Wearing hakama properly and stylishly look quite cool when they perform martial arts even if they are not Japanese. The purpose of Matsuri has been changing compared with what it used to be, although I don’t know how this Matsuri will be in the future, I would like it to keep the importance of Japanese culture and suit the trend of the times. I’m looking forward to seeing future Matsuri events.
The title of Matsuri Japan Festival 2018 is “appreciation”. What do you appreciate those who live in Australia through managing Matsuri?
Ms. Chalker: I have an appreciation for that they accept Japanese culture as it is a multicultural society. Their culture and our Japanese culture are totally different but they enjoy these differences and love Japan. Additionally, many visitors behave politely and respectfully. After finished Matsuri we always pick up garbage carefully, but there were just a few of them and the place was so clean. That’s Australia, having Clean Up Australia Day.
Mr. Mizukoshi: In any case, I appreciate that a lot of Aussie participate in our Matsuri and I am grateful that they enjoy and come to like Japanese culture.
Finally, please give a message to the visitors of Matsuri Japan Festival 2018.
Ms. Chalker: Just come to Matsuri and enjoy yourself! It would liven up enthusiastically just like last year. Please enjoy Japanese culture. It won’t disappoint you. lol
Mr. Mizukoshi: This year we have a workshop of Omikosihi, portable shrine, for children for the first time. It can give you an opportunity to wear happi (traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat for the festival), so please come to Matsuri with children! We also have Bon-Odori at the end of this Matsuri as well. Join us!!