The highlight of my weekend was watching a group of Seattleites charge face-first into heaping blocks of tofu.
I’m not sure the experience was “cultural” but it was certainly a lot of fun. After the soy-protein-covered spectacle came a live performance of Bon Odori, a traditional Japanese style of dance. The group was from the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple. They gave us a brief history, explained the subtle hand movements and intricate steps of their dance, and even taught the crowd how to join in. It was a lot of fun.
That’s what Daysha Arthur , the office manager at Seattle Uwajimaya, told me Natsu Matsuri Festival is all about. They want to provide their community with a good time, while exposing them to Japanese culture.
Every year since 2008, Uwajimaya has thrown this event for their community, and this year’s festival was their biggest yet. The festival, filling about 150 feet of street behind Uwajimaya, was a celebration of traditional Japanese culture, and the Japanese-American culture of many residents of Seattle’s International District.
In between the opportunities to meet Hello Kitty in the fur and the Jan Ken Pon – Rock, Paper, Scissors – tournament, there were live Taiko Drum Performances by Taiko Kai, from the University of Washington. I could feel the vibrations of the drums from my perch down the street where I snacked on Spam Musubi, the Hawaiian take on a classic Japanese dish.
Up and down the street there were stands selling everything from yakisoba to curry tacos, and from traditional kimonos to masks of beloved Nintendo characters.
“We get to incorporate what we do in our Asian cultures as well as what we do in American culture,” said Deysha “No matter where you’re from, you’re always welcome here, whether you’re familiar with everything or not, just come out and have a good time!” Bring your family, some friends or even for a weekend date. There’s something for everyone! If you like good food, cool music and learning about the world then keep an eye out for next year’s Natsu Matsuri festival behind Uwajimaya Seattle. It won’t disappoint.
Photograph by Jamling Sherpa, The Watchdog