Ja­pa­nese cul­ture on show

Fes­ti­val beats the drum for food and cus­toms as lo­cals en­joy tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tion

Rotorua Daily Post - - Local News -

Vis­i­tors of all ages and eth­nic­i­ties came out to en­joy the sun­shine and the cul­ture of the Ja­pa­nese Sum­mer Fes­ti­val at the Tea House in Gov­ern­ment Gar­dens on Satur­day.

The event was es­tab­lished three years ago by Mika Squibb, who hoped to cre­ate a home away from home and share her cul­ture with the city.

“When I came here first, I was mar­ried to a New Zealan­der and didn’t have any fam­ily here and felt very lonely around New Year’s Day.

“New Year’s is very big in Ja­pan, very spe­cial. So I wanted to cre­ate a home at­mos­phere to my com­mu­nity and then to share that to the Ro­torua com­mu­nity.”

The event re­ceives fund­ing from the Ro­torua Lakes Coun­cil but re­lies heav­ily on com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions to help bring the fes­ti­val to­gether.

“It seems like ev­ery­body likes com­ing and en­joy­ing the food and at­mos­phere, I would like to keep it go­ing,” she said.

The event was opened by the Ro­torua Racco, a Taika Ja­pa­nese drum­ming group, which cre­ated a strong melody of beats and flute for the crowd to en­joy.

Once the group had fin­ished their per­for­mance they in­vited the de­lighted

crowd to learn how to play for them­selves.

Lead drum­mer Hiroe How­ell said al­though play­ing the in­stru­ment was fun it was more im­por­tant for her to teach her skill to the au­di­ence.

“This is a very tra­di­tional Ja­pa­nese fes­ti­val way.

“The big drum is the main, but all mem­bers and all in­stru­ments equally sup­port each other,” she said.

How­ell has been play­ing the drums for 30 years.

One vol­un­teer, Kyoko Austin, had been up since 8am pre­par­ing more than 300 mini inari — sushi rice en­cased in a fried tofu pouch.

“It’s very sim­ple but kids love it,” Austin said.

Along with many oth­ers at the fes­ti­val, Austin was dressed in a tra­di­tional sum­mer ki­mono.

She said she was ex­cited to be able to share the Ja­pa­nese cul­ture.

“It’s good to do some­thing so peo­ple can un­der­stand Ja­pa­nese cul­ture and how we dress.

“We are very proud.” Lovely Na­ture manag­ing di­rec­tor Taemi Hara had cre­ated origami ear­rings and other prod­ucts to sell at the event.

She said origami was a tra­di­tional prac­tice in Ja­pan that of­ten sym­bol­ised peace and hap­pi­ness.

“When we grew up we were told how to fold nat­u­rally, in the fam­ily or in school.”

Rose Heaslip, 14, had come over from Tau­ranga for the event.

“I love the Ja­pa­nese cul­ture and I can speak the lan­guage so I just wanted to en­joy it more.”

Heaslip said she had a lot of Ja­pa­nese friends, who in­spired her to learn the lan­guage.

She was en­joy­ing try­ing on the ki­monos and hoped the event would grow big­ger in com­ing years.

Photo / Stephen Parker

Ro­torua Racco, a Taiko Ja­pa­nese drum­ming group, at the fes­ti­val.

Leah Teb­butt

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