Japanese culture on show
Festival beats the drum for food and customs as locals enjoy traditional celebration
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.
Rotorua Racco, a Taiko Japanese drumming group, at the festival.