The Annual Japan Festival was held in Hermann Park on Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14, 2013. Free to the public, the festival brings Japanese culture to Houston through music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, traditional arts such as tea ceremony and ikebana, paper crafts and yukata try-on. Japan Festival is the only festival allowed to be held in Hermann Park and the Japanese Garden. This year it is estimated that over 30,000 attended over the two day period.
“Arigatou, Houston!” (Thank you, Houston!)was the theme chosen to commemorate the 20th anniversary and express gratitude to the community for their support of the festival over the years. Additionally festival organizers took the opportunity to thank the Houston community for their continued support for the Japan-Relief Fund for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake as well as their support for local Japanese cultural organizations and businesses.
Consul-General of Japan Jota Yamamoto gave welcoming remarks at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, April 13. (link) Consul-General congratulated Mr. Hiro Matsumura, Festival Chairman and recognized the supporting organizations and the city and people of Houston. Consul-General welcomed the Honorable Edward Gonzales, Mayor Pro Tempore and Council Member, who recently led a delegation to Houston’s sister-city, Chiba. On behalf of the Honorable Annise Parker, Mayor of the City of Houston; Council Member Gonzales presented Consul-General Yamamoto with the proclamation appointing him an Honorary Citizen and Good Will Ambassador of the City of Houston.
Highlights on the entertainment stage this year included a performance from a Japanese professional pop singer, Aya Uchida and Takane Kochihira, an Okinawan sanshin player. Local highlights included the Houston Grand Opera, which showcased an excerpt from their new chamber opera, “The Memory Stone,” set in Hermann Park’s Japanese Garden and following stories of two Japanese American women.
Festival attendees who stopped by the Consulate-General’s booth picked up Japanese brochures and cultural magazines while learning how to make sakura kirigami and origami kabuto helmets out of newspaper. Many also stopped to watch performances of traditional Japanese tales, or kamishibai, told in both Japanese and English.
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