We dove, and we dove deep, into Japanese culture at our first ever Nippon Now! party on Nov. 3rd (which was, not quite coincidentally, Culture Day – a national holiday). Families and groups of friends attended the event, which was held in JR Kyushu Hall, on the ninth floor of JR Hakata City.
Katsura Sunshine had everyone in stitches with his rakugo (traditional comic storytelling), which he performed in both English AND Japanese. The Canadian comedian apprenticed for three years to become the second ever foreign rakugo comedian, and it was certainly not in vain: the whole audience was laughing, as Japanese and English alike was seamlessly interwove Eastern and Westerns language and humour.
Tomoko and Shoko Kawahara, sisters and acclaimed musicians, performed some elegant songs on their koto, the national instrument of Japan.
Everyone was spellbound by the powerful beats of Itoshima Nijo Kizuna’s taiko playing! The mixture of trilling flute and pounding drums was impressive enough, but their synchronised choreography (using their drum sticks as props as well as for percussion) left everyone speechless.
Adachi Sendensha charmed the audience with the energetic tunes and colorful costumes of their chindonya (Japanese marching band) performance.
Hanamizuki’s Kimono Photo Salon offered guests the opportunity to dress in decadent kimono for free. They also sent forth beautiful oiran (traditional courtesan) models to mingle with the crowd.
Throughout the event there was a plethora of delicious dishes and delectable drinks. Sumiyoshi Shuhan, a specialty liquor store in the Sumiyoshi area, sold Japanese alcoholic beverages, like umeshu and shochu, but also offered sake tasting boxes, with 4 different brands for the purchaser to try.
Kaisendon Isoragi, a fish restaurant in Hakata City, sold Mahimahi Jumbo Skewers, mahimahi deep-fried and served with two sauces. A delish fish dish!
Oden Suginoko sold oden, a kind of Japanese hot pot; a warming dish for cooler weather.
Hakata Tonbei, a popular local restaurant, offered mouth-watering teppanyaki (meat grilled on an iron plate) and yakisoba.
Gohanya Shobo-an decided to sell ochazuke, a bowl of rice topped with fish over which is poured hot dashi (broth). A more nutritious treat for our culture-celebrators.
Kyo Hayashiya catered for those with a sweet tooth by offering matcha anmitsu (fruit and jelly mix) and warabi mochi (mochi covered in kinako).
Ishimura Manseido sent one of their master craftsmen to create sweet treats in front of the eyes of onlooking guests. There were three kinds available, including yowaigusa, which were carefully molded into the shape of gorgeous chrysanthemums.
Suntory were offering free drinks to our guests. We particularly loved their Yogurina drink, which merited squeals of “oishi” (delicious) all round.
Comedy Fukuoka hosted a haiku competition, in which the most amusing haiku composed would win tickets to the Comedy Fukuoka Autumn Showcase.
The sumo suit wrestling started off with a bang, or rather a bounce, as the first contestants in our Hakata Basho sprung into action. Safely ensconced in the padded (and slightly weighty) sumo suits, contestants struggled with each other, trying to push one another off the mat or to the ground.
One particularly enthusiastic wrestler took a flying leap onto his opponent (don’t worry – the suits protected them both)! There were three rounds to the sumo, the third of which was the grand sumo tournament, in which eight contestants wrestled each other until there was only one left standing: Jody Archer!
Men and women of many nationalities took to the mat – Indian, American, Cambodian, British, French, Japanese, Egyptian, Canadian – and we found that it wasn’t always the biggest person who won; many were victorious through speed, strategy or sheer determination!
We had a great time celebrating the culture of Japan on Culture Day! Education and enjoyment went hand in hand at this unusual event. Thank you to everyone who attended – or should we say, arigatou gozaimasu!