Japanese festival Nikkei Matsuri returns to Burnaby for 11th year

The festival shares Japanese culture with the public while fundraising for the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre

The Nikkei Matsuri festival returns to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby this weekend celebrating Japanese culture with the community. (Submitted/Christina Tran)

The Nikkei Matsuri festival returns to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby this weekend celebrating Japanese culture with the community. (Submitted/Christina Tran)

Nikkei Matsuri, a festival celebrating Japanese heritage, will return for its eleventh year this weekend at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby with a new pre-event gathering, special guest, and cultural activities.

“As a cultural centre, we like to introduce Japanese culture to local Canadians,” says Louise Akuzawa, chair of the Nikkei Matsuri organizing committee. “It’s a celebration [of] Japanese culture, food, and entertainment.”

The matsuri, which means festival, will run from Sept. 2 to 3 at 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, and feature traditional Japanese arts, including martial art demonstrations, taiko drumming, and Bon Odori dancing. After watching the performances, Akuzawa finds attendees become interested in the art forms.

“Quite often people say, ‘Oh, ‘[I’d] like to take the class.’ So that’s a good introduction, just to see the demonstration. Then if you want to take the course, come to Nikkei Centre,” Akuzawa says.

The special guest this year is the Japan-based samurai artist group KAMUI, whose leader, Tetsuro Shimaguchi, starred in and choreographed sword fighting scenes for Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

The new Zenyasai Sunset Beer Garden event will take place as a pre-festival celebration on Friday from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm at the Nikkei Garden. While there has been a beer garden each year during Nikkei Matsuri, Akuzawa says this is the first time it will take place on the eve of the festival.

“It’s not only beer, it’s sake, Japanese sake, which is rice wine. We also have plum wine.”

Akuzawa says there will be local craft beer available. The pre-event will also feature music from DJs, like Vancouver-based Rennie Foster, and live mural painting by Tokyo-born artist Taka Sudo.

Nikkei Matsuri will also have a food truck plaza, cafe area, and marketplace with Japanese apparel.

Attendees can experience a mikoshi procession, which is a Japanese festival tradition of carrying a portable shrine. There will also be the opportunity to wear a yukata, which is a light summer kimono made of cotton.

“You can register, and we dress you. You have about 30 minutes to walk around. So [it is] something you could try, … [see] how you feel, and take [photos],” Akuzawa says.

Nikkei Matsuri will also have a game zone with Japanese-style games, like super ball sukui and wanage, which means ring toss.

The festival also serves as a fundraiser for the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. The funds are collected through adult admission, which is $8 plus tax in advance or $10 with tax included at the door.

Akuzawa says the fundraiser is for supporting the centre’s building, which is 23 years old, requiring maintenance and cultural programming.

“We have [our] own culture [programs], or more recently, we have a pickleball [program]. To run the [programs], we do need the facilities [and] staff to prepare or buy equipment. [For] building maintenance and then also to run the program and keep the staff, we do need funding.”

Akuzawa says there is no goal for the number of attendees because “everything changed” after the pandemic regarding attendance and returning back to normal. But she says the festival’s highest turnout over two days was about 14,000 people, which was around five years ago.

At its core, Nikkei Matsuri is about introducing Japanese culture and the centre to anyone that is interested.

“It’s participation. It’s community building. We want people to know ‘Here is Nikkei Centre.’”

For details about the festival, purchasing tickets, and volunteering, visit https://nikkeimatsuri.nikkeiplace.org/.