Tens of thousands of Phoenix residents have flocked to the Japanese culture-themed Matsuri Festival year after year – whether for the kimono fashion show, Japanese food or new surprises.
The taiko drumming performances and martial-arts demonstrations are attractions for which more than 80,000 people crowd a Phoenix downtown park on the last weekend in February.
This year’s 27th Arizona Matsuri will be held on February 26-27 from 10 am to 5 pm at Heritage & Science Park in downtown Phoenix, at 7th Street and Monroe. This year’s festival theme commemorates the 35th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Himeji, Japan, and Phoenix.
To kick off this year’s Matsuri, a parade will be held on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 10 am. Anyone dressed in kimono, yukata, or hapi coat may participate in this parade which will meander throughout Heritage Square.
Parade participants are asked to gather by the Plaza Stage at 9:30 am. The parade will end at the Plaza Stage at 10:30 am, just in time for the Matsuri opening ceremony. Consul General Junichi Ihara from the Los Angeles Consulate will welcome attendees along with key City of Phoenix officials.
Phoenix Sister City Himeji Chairman, Jon Osterkamp will share the history of how the paths of Himeji and Phoenix have connected over the past few decades.
New to the 2011 Arizona Matsuri are a half dozen new merchant vendors and three new food vendors. Also, Awa Odori dancers from Los Angeles will perform both on the Plaza Stage and in the parade.
A new exciting feature at this year’s festival will be the Asahi Beer Garden which will be open at the Matsuri from 11 am to 5 pm each day. Also, on Saturday, Feb. 26, there will be karaoke and dancing available at the Asahi Beer Garden from 5 pm to 8 pm. Proceeds of this new beer garden will benefit both the Japanese Friendship Garden and Arizona Matsuri.
As in past years, there will be a Martial Arts stage and a Taiko Stage which will feature all day entertainment, along with traditional Japanese cultural performances on the Plaza Stage. Shan Ichiyanagi, the Candy Sculptor, will thrill the audience with his amazing edible creations.
The following Japanese Taiko drumming groups and entertainers will be performing on the ASU Stage at Heritage Square and Science Center from 10:30 am – 5:00 pm: Fushicho Daiko (Phoenix Drummers), All Arizona Taiko Team, Phoenix Taiko Kai, Saboten Taiko, Aozora, Kemushi, Ken Koshio (a native Japanese singer & song writer, Taiko player and Japanese folk artist), Washington Elementary Taka Taiko Drummers, Faith North Montessori Taiko, Senators Taiko, SGI Taiko, Awa Odori Dancers from Los Angeles, and Hands On Taiko.
Monroe Street Stage Performers are: Araki Ryu Iaido Kenshin Dojo, Arizona Aikido, Arizona Karate Association, Arizona Kyudo Kai and University of Arizona Kyudo Club, Arizona Shotokan Association, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Kitsune Robot, Phoenix Kendo Kai, Southwest Shinkendo Dojo, and Toybox.
There will be fun activities for children, opportunities to participate in a tea ceremony or calligraphy, outstanding educational exhibits and lots more. Best of all, it’s free to attend the Arizona Matsuri.
The second city to be formally recognized as a Phoenix Sister City, Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture, became a partner in 1976. The city is located along the Seto Inland Sea some 40 miles west of Kobe, which is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture.
While Phoenix is named for the mythological Phoenix bird, Himeji Castle, considered the best-preserved castle in Japan, is called Oshiro or “White Heron” and is designated as a United Nations World Treasure.
The Japanese Friendship Garden, Ro Ho En, located in Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix, is the product and shared vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji and features 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, an authentic tea house, and a 12-foot waterfall and Koi pond.
Local talented Matsuri artist, Gary Hostallero has created a beautiful 2011 Arizona Matsuri poster depicting the connection between Himeji and Phoenix. These posters will be available for purchase at the Matsuri information booth.
(Cultural News, 2011 February Issue) © Cultural News, Inc