FESTIVAL OF FUN. The ninth annual Festival Japan, Presented by the Japan-American Society of Oregon.
Uwajimaya, and NW Natural, took place the last weekend in September at Uwajimaya Plaza.
The family-friendly event featured two days of entertainment, food, demonstrations, fun, and more,
including a taiko drumming performance by Takohachi. (AR Photo/Julie Stegeman)
By Julie Stegeman (The Asian Reporter)
Summer Weather made perhaps its final appearance of the year at the ninth annual Festival Japan, which took
place the last weekend of September in the parking lot of Beaverton’s Uwajimaya Plaza. The festival---
presented by the Japan-American Society of Oregon (JASO), Uwajimaya, and NW Natural---celebrated Japanese
culture with two full days of entertainment, food, demonstrations, fun, and more.
The weekend’s offerings, coupled with the warm, sunny weather, drew large crowds to the festival, made
up of a wide range of people: elders, families with children, adults, teens, and even a few folks dressed as
manga characters who move through the throngs.
Arriving at the festival, attendees were greeted by the aroma of delicious food--- both Japanese and Hawaiian
--- the deep booming sounds of taiko drums or other music, and the visual impact of hundreds of people snaking
their way through booths offering food, information, and demonstrations or enjoying performances on a stage set
up at one end of the festival. The family-friendly event held lots of appeal for children, who happily held up
unsuspecting goldfish in plastic bags that they’d won at on fo the carnival games; clapped, danced to, or
sat mesmerized by engaging performances; or hugged and took pictures with the Hello Kitty character, who wandered
the festival greeting fans. Adults enjoyed their own area as well, and could relax with a malty beverage at the
Sapporo Beer Garden; sample sake and plum wine from SakeOne, Gekkeikan Sake, and Ozeki Kikkoman Plum Wine; or
learn from informational booths, some offering samples of food and beverages. Lucky festival-goers on Saturday
had an opportunity to meet and receive autographs from Takayuki Suzuki, Takuro Nishimura, and Jason McLaughlin
of the Portland Timbers.
The festival provided nonstop entertainment on both days. Performances --- seamlessly introduced by master of
ceremonies Joel Iwanaga of KOIN News 6 --- ranged from energetic children and youth from Richmond Elementary
School’s Japanese immersion program pounding on taiko drums to a contest where participants competed to
see who could eat the most natto --- a strong-smelling and tasting traditional Japanese food made of fermented
Another contest, called Sashimi Samurai, pitted two local sushi chefs against on another in a head-to-head
battle to create the most appealing sashimi platter within the allotted time frame. The competition --- reminiscent
of TV’s “Iron Chef” --- showcased the two men’s deft and rapid skill with ultra-sharp knives on an
assortment of seafood, including octopus and whole fish. Audience members voted for their favorite resulting
platter using applause and were given an opportunity to bid on the finished products to take home and enjoy.
Other performances included traditional Japanese dance by Fujinami Kai; rock music by A-Key Kyo; break dancing by
the Epworth Break Dancers; taiko drumming by Portland Taiko, Monmouth Taiko, and Takohachi; a tofu-eating contest
where participants were unable to use their hands; and more. A second stage at the festival hosted athletic
martial arts demonstrations. Featured groups included Ojukan Judo, Westside Martial Arts, Aikido Multnomah Aikikai,
Pacific Martial Arts, and others. In addition, there were demonstrations of several activities at booths throughout
the festival, including a presentation of go --- a strategic board game --- by the Portland Go Club in addition to
instruction on origami by the Japanese Ancestral Society and the Oregon Nikkei Endowment, sumi-e painting by Karen
Fullerton, and calligraphy by Sekko Shodo Kai.