Tokyo summer festivals offer taste of faraway lands without the travel

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

One does not have to travel to another country to get to know its people and culture. Summer festivals being organized by embassies of several nations and other groups in Tokyo in the coming weeks can offer that taste of life abroad.

For years, embassies of many Asian nations have been holding festivals targeted mostly at their own expat communities in Japan. But recently, they have shifted the focus to more exchanges with local residents.

Last year, Tokyo-based Nippon International Nongovernmental Organization (NINGO) held the “Ajitomo 50″ event. With the slogan “Let’s make 50 friends from Asia,” an estimated 80,000 people — including participants from 35 Asian nations — took part in the two-day event at Ueno Park in October.

The group has been working again with several embassies this summer to hold similar events.

This year’s summer festival season kicked off with the Indonesian Festival, which was organized by the Indonesian Embassy, on July 9 and 10 at Yoyogi Park in Shibuya Ward. Indonesian cuisine, Javanese gamelan music, Javanese and Balinese dance and contemporary Indonesian music were on display at the event.

The Nepal Festival, to be held at Yoyogi Park next Saturday and Sunday with support from the Foreign Ministry and the Nepalese Embassy, will feature Nepalese food wagons, dance and music. Other related events are planned for August and September to promote Nepalese tourism in Japan.

Chiranjibi Thapa, chief organizer of this year’s Nepal festival, said most participants in past events had been Nepalese. This year, however, organizers are hoping to draw more Japanese, with an aim of spreading more knowledge about Nepal.

“We want more Japanese to know about Nepal,” he said. “For example, the country has about 104 different ethnic groups, but few Japanese know about that.”

NINGO will also organize a Thai festival at the same park on the same day as the Nepal event.

On Aug. 13 and 14, the Indian Festival and the Tokyo-Africa Summer Festival, jointly organized by several African countries, including Senegal and Ghana, is to be held at Yoyogi Park.

The annual Sri Lanka Festival, which the organizer boasts is a great opportunity for the Japanese public to experience a taste of Sri Lankan culture, is set for Sept. 10 and 11.

More than 80 booths that include food, tea, herbal products, jewelry and ceramics are scheduled to be set up. The organizer expects around 100,000 visitors at the event, which will also feature Sri Lankan dance and music.

The Vietnam Festival is scheduled for Sept. 17-18 at Yoyogi Park, to be followed by the “Namaste India” Festival on Sept. 23-25.

For more information on the festivals except for the Sri Lanka event, access tigerfestival.blogspot.com (in Japanese only). Details on the Sri Lanka Festival is scheduled to be made available on www.lankaembassy.jp in mid-August.