Harmony was the key word at Japan Day 2023, as the event created by the Japanese Embassy to promote Japan’s 2000 years of rich history returned to face-to-face proceedings last Sunday (February 26) at The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
The last face-to-face Japan Day was in 2020, before the pandemic lockdowns.
“Last year we held Japan Day online, unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID, but this year I’m so happy that we are able to hold the event face-to-face and in real-time. I’d like to thank all those who have worked with us to prepare for this event,” said Yasuhiro Atsumi, ambassador of Japan to Jamaica.
Explaining the theme for Japan Day 2023, Ambassador Atsumi said:
“I want you to remember just one thing about Japanese culture. The most important thing in Japanese culture and Japanese value system is harmony. In Japanese it is called Wa. Believe it or not, Wa is another name to mean Japan itself. For example, Japanese cuisine is called Washoku, and Japanese clothing such as the one that my wife is wearing is known as Wafuku. Harmony is a basic value, defined as the ability of the people to cooperate and work together well. Japan is a country whose tradition developed out of agricultural society where people were forced to work closely together on limited amount of land. In order to maintain this type of society the needs of the village were more important than the needs of the individual.”
He further expounded that it was this cultural existence that created a society that placed an importance on understanding each member as to be able to make decisions as a group, which is the very definition of Wa.
Attendees were greeted with a plethora of activities and displays featuring Japanese culture. There were booths dedicated to the Japanese arts of Origami, Calligraphy, and even Jamaican-inspired Japanese paintings.
Guests could live their Japanese fantasies at the Yukata booth, where they could try on traditional Japanese clothing and take pictures to their heart’s content. As with each year, the Japanese calendar is a big must, and the annual lottery for them continues to draw huge numbers since they are a limited amount. For those wanting the opposite, Jamaican brand Chupse was on hand with their line of Jamaican-crafted items.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japanese Government Scholarship and Japan Exchange Teaching Programme offered the opportunity to visit, work, or experience education in Japan.
When not milling around to the booths, there were live and interactive happenings on the main stage. Maki Kawamito opened the show playing the Japanese traditional Koto, a 13 stringed musical instrument. JICA had the audience up and about the venue for their Bon odori dance, while the Jamaica Kosplay Dancers lit up the place with their dance number to the latest J-POP. On the opposite end of the spectrum the University of the West Indies’ Soran Bushi performance, a popular Japanese folk song turned things back to a more traditional manner. The art of Japanese flower arrangement demonstration, Ikebana by local group Ikebana International had a calming, zen-like projection.
Back with a punch, literally, was the Karate demonstration. Jamaica’s Shotokan Karate kicked, punched, and threw themselves into the hearts of the audience showing off the Japanese martial art. Having an impact as well was the combined efforts of the Jamaica Cosplay Club and Anime Nerds of Jamaica. Their cosplay competition proved the highlight of the event as the massive crowd voted for their favourite character brought to life by local Jamaican talent. It proved a tough decision, but Tiffany Chen was crowned by the audience despite a going toe-to-toe against the might of Nintendo’s Pokeman.
Ambassador Yasuhiro Atsumi assured all in attendance that Japan Day will return next year, even larger and as part of a group of other such Japanese cultural events to honour the 60th anniversary of Japan Jamaica relations.