The Cultural Festival was officially opened by Japan’s Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Mr. Toshihisa Takata. In his opening address, he expressed his desire for the continued growth in the Kenya-Japan relations. He also expressed his pleasure at the fact that with every passing year, the number of attendees of the Japan Cultural Festival increases.
The main event of the Cultural Festival was an Ikebana lecture and demonstration. Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. The lecture and demonstration was facilitated by Mrs. Ishikawa, an ikebana expert from the Shogetsu School of flower arrangement. Mrs. Ishikawa, who was assisted by a team of experts, showed the members of the audience how to make floral pieces, large and small, simple and complicated, serious and playful using a variety of mostly locally available materials.
A kimono display and demonstration were also part of the agenda of this year’s cultural festival. The kimono is the traditional Japanese garment worn by men, women and children. Nowadays, the kimono is mostly worn on special occasions.
On the day of the Cultural Festival at the Embassy of Japan, the room in which the kimono demonstration was held was decked in kimono of different types and colours. The complex task of wearing a kimono including the arcane art of tying the obi (kimono belt) was demonstrated on a model by Mrs. Shimada and an assistant.
The participants of the kimono demonstration were completely amazed at the process it takes before one is completely dressed up in a kimono. The greatest shock of all, however, was the price tag of the kimono. Some of the participants were so impressed by the exhibition that they even registered with the kimono professionals so that they could get tutorials on how to wear a kimono.
Origami was also taught to the participants. Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. Using a sheet of paper, a person can make a variety of objects. In line with the main event of the cultural festival, participants were taught how to make a flower. This, most of them found was much more difficult to make than they had imagined. In addition to the flowers, members of the audience also learnt how to make a box and a crane. These, to the relief of most, were much easier to make than the flower.
Food is an integral part of any culture and a Japanese Food Demonstration was therefore also part of the day’s activity. The demonstration was conducted by Mrs. Jinyama. The participants were taught how to make norimaki (sushi rice and seafood, vegetables or meat rolled in dried seaweed sheets) and sukiyaki (beef and vegetables sautéed and simmered with soy sauce, sugar and other seasonings).
After the demonstration, the question on most of the participants’ lips was where to buy the ingredients for making Japanese food. In particular, the participants wanted to know where to buy seaweed. Mrs. Jinyama shared with them the names and locations of some of the places she knew about.
After the food demonstration, appetites were quite whetted and this was satisfied by a Japanese food tasting session. Here, the participants got an opportunity to eat onigiri (rice balls), chicken and meat balls among other types of Japanese food.
Food and exercise go hand in hand and this was also so during the Japan Cultural Festival. After the food demonstration and tasting session, a martial arts demonstration was performed. Members of the audience were treated to an exhibition of karate led by Master Tamura and an aikido exhibition led by Pazat sensei.
One unique aspect of this year’s cultural festival was that the Japan Information & Culture Centre cooperated more with university students who are actively studying Japanese culture and language. During the cultural festival, there was an exhibition of activities by Japanese clubs in several universities.
In addition to the exhibition stand, there was also an interuniversity competition by the students. The theme of the inter-university competition was ‘Modern Japanese Culture’. Students from the participating universities entertained the crowd with a skit, songs, cosplay, anime trivia and a dance.