Explorations in Japanese Culture
One of the things that I love about the Fall is that it means that I get to go to two of my favorite annual conventions! In September I get to go to JapanFest and usually in the beginning of October I get to attend Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). This post will be all about JapanFest, with a second post about Anime Weekend Atlanta coming later. Now, if you read this blog you obviously know how much I love Japan, but living in Northwest Georgia, I don’t really come in contact with to many like minded people. So for me, being able to meet and celebrate Japanese culture with others people is a really big deal!
JapanFest is a celebration of Japanese culture that is held annually in Atlanta in September. The convention is put on by Japan Fest, Inc. which is comprised of The Japan-America Society of Georgia, The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta. The convention really has a sense of sophistication (for lack of a better word) about it, since the organizers have the resources needed to host a diverse range of people and groups. The panels are not just run by fans, but often renowned artisans and experts in their field. The convention hosts “a wide variety of performing arts, demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and exhibitions.” I really love being able to walk around and see a variety of demonstrations and workshops all about Japanese culture. In years past i have seen a traditional tea ceremony, bonsai tree workshop, taiko drumming performances and even Japanese archery demonstrations. This year I was lucky enough to get to watch the Georgia Sumo Open, where Georgian Sumo wrestlers took challengers on stage to demonstrate and talk about the fundamentals of summon wrestling.
JapanFest is a long running celebration of culture, celebrating its 25th year this past September. The JapanFest website does a great job of giving a short and concise historical summary, which I will simply quote here:
What is now referred to as “JapanFest” began in 1981 as Japan Week, a biannual series of Japan-related cultural events organized by the Consulate General of Japan that took place around the city of Atlanta. In 1986, the name was changed to JapanFest, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, the Japan America Society of Georgia, and the Consulate General of Japan organized their own events under the title of JapanFest. In 1993, the first Picnic and Sports Day was held at Mercer University. In 1995, Picnic and Sports Day became Japan Day at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. In 1996, JapanFest moved to Stone Mountain Park and became an annual event. In 1997, JapanFest, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit corporation. In 2010, JapanFest had 16,500 attendees, making JapanFest the largest Japanese festival south of Washington, DC and east of Houston, TX.
One of my favorite parts about JapanFest is the availability of wonderful Japanese food sold buy all the Japanese restaurants and grocery stores from around Atlanta. You can get bentos, sushi, curry, but best of all you can get huge bowls of ramen!! For this who have never had real Japanese ramen, you are missing out. It is nothing like the freeze dried crap you buy at the store. It is delicious noodles in warm broth with a variety of different ingredients. This year I enjoyed some miso ramen, even breaking my vegetarian diet to enjoy the full experience. Food is not the only thing sold at the festival, many different vendors come to sell Japanese crafts and goods.
Booths and Vendors come to JapanFest and sell many different handcrafts like handmade wood sculptures, tenuguis, kimonos, small toys (I bought a Doraemon coin bank for a $1!) and other unique items. To list all of the different vendors here would take up way to much space, so instead I point you to the JapanFest Website where you can look at a list of all the participants. Many big Japanese companies that operate in GA come and allow you to see their newest products. Big names like Yamaha, Kubota, Toto are just a few that make it out every year. I always, take time to play with the Toto’s remote controlled Japanese toilet! It is amazing all the things that it can do….
My main goal here is to really inform everyone about the existence of JapanFest, for me to go on about every little thing that I did would just be boring to write about and to read. I encourage all those interested to visit their website and look further into the information provided to see everything that they have to offer.