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April 13, 2024 14 mins
After four years off due to COVID, Japan Festival Boston is back! Later this month, Boston Common will be home to the city's largest festival dedicated to all things Japanese culture: food, kimono, origami, tea ceremonies, ikebana, cosplay, and so much more. Ara Mahar, the PR manager for the festival, joins Nichole this week to talk about all this free family-friendly event has to offer.
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(00:07):
From WBZ News Radio in Boston.This is New England Weekend. Each week
we come together and talk about allthe topics important to you and the place
where you live. It is sogood to be back with you this week.
I'm Nicole Davis. The weather iswarmer, spring has arrived. It
would be nice if it would stopraining for more than two days at a
time, but whatever, we'll takethe sun we can get. This time

(00:28):
of year, we're all looking forsomething fun to do outside, be at
a festival, at activity, somewhereto go. Later this month, Boston
Common, we'll be bustling with activityfor a whole weekend, celebrating the vibrant
world of Japanese culture. After severalyears of hiatus and having to actually go
virtual because of COVID, like alot of other festivals, this year,
they're back fully in person and thereis something for everybody. You might be

(00:50):
wondering, I don't know anything aboutJapanese food, art and culture, but
that's okay. The organizers say,everybody is welcome. Let's talk about it.
Mahars, the PR manager for thefestival, it is so good to
have you here. How long hasthe festival been in Boston at this point.
Yes, So back in twenty twelvethat was going to be the one

(01:11):
hundred year anniversary of the gift fromTokyo to Washington, d C. Of
the terry blossoms, and so theconsulate here in Boston kind of reached out
to some key community members and said, hey, can anyone put together an
event to celebrate this? This isa really big deal. I want us
to do something for the community.And so a few key members stepped up,

(01:33):
including the Japanese Business Bureau of Boston, helped to sponsor and organize a
very small, little festival, butit turned out to be much much bigger
than expected. Over ten thousand peopleshowed up. They were really only planning
for a couple thousand oops, andthey moved to a slightly bigger venue,

(01:53):
and then they doubled it to twentythousand people, and then slowly, like
had to grow up to bigger andbigger venues till we ended up at Boston
Common where we are now, andwith our most recent year we had seventy
thousand people in twenty nineteen. Wow. So we've really grown from fumble roots,
I would say so. And youknow, COVID really threw a wrench

(02:15):
in a lot of festivals and artisticventures and you know, really just life
in general. And you all hadto take a bit of a break because
of COVID. Tell us about howthe pandemic impacted the festival, and now,
of course you're coming back. Sowhat's it like to finally be preparing
to come back from all that.Yes, just like any other festival.
It was of course very difficult forus. You know, the pandemic happened,

(02:38):
everything had to be shut down.We did our best to try to
keep things virtual for a while,so in twenty twenty and twenty twenty one
we did a virtual mini festival,so twenty twenty was fully virtual. In
twenty twenty one we did kind ofhybrid half virtual, half in person,
very small scale down and then asthings started to get a little bit to

(03:00):
normal, we decided to take abreak, reorganize and prepare to come back
in full force. And so thisis our first time officially back fully Boston
Common everything that we used to have, and it's taken us a while to
get back into things. A lothas changed after the pandemic for festivals all
around the nation, all around theworld. Prices of things have sought up

(03:23):
quite a bit, and there's alot more rules now and regulations now.
But yeah, things are going verywell and we're very excited and we have
luckily been able to pretty much achievethe same level we were at in twenty
nineteen. We're coming back with everythingwe had done. What is the focus
on the festival now is we makeour way into twenty twenty four and beyond.

(03:44):
Yes, so we have a coupleof omission statements that we believe in.
You know, one of those thingsis we just want to keep the
festival going for one hundred years andthen on for forever. We want this
to be something that you can goto with your family, meet up people
without any plans. You just showup and there they are, and that
hopefully you can grow with the festivaland you know, ten years, twenty

(04:04):
years, maybe thirty years down theline, we want to see those kids
grow up and come back to thefestival and you know, they're adults now
and they've made it a part oftheir lives. And then another really important
thing for us, especially for someof the founding members that have stayed with
us since the beginning, is it'sreally about connecting the community and the cultures

(04:26):
of America and Japan and of courseanyone else who comes. You know,
we really believe that the more youcan learn about another culture, the more
you understand it's people that can reallycontribute to you know, peaceful relations and
so, you know, even thoughwe're just one festival in Boston, we

(04:46):
really hope that this kind of culturalcommunication and event can really help foster peats
on a larger scale across the country, you know, across the globe.
And yeah, that's the really importantpart for us too. Food is critical
for any festival, and I loveJapanese food. I mean we're not just
talking like sushi or whatever. Like, there is so much Japanese food,

(05:08):
snacks and cakes and pastries. I'mhungry already. Tell me about what you've
got on tap for food. Yes, so we have over twenty food booths
this year, and so we haveramen, we have chocolates, we have
other desserts and weeks. We havethings like sova noodles. We've got yaki

(05:29):
soba, you know, fried chicken, just prey, other street foods like
a takoyaki, a really wide rangeof different kinds of Japanese foods. Maybe
you might find you know, youmight be listening to this and thinking,
what on earth is ekonomiyaki, whichI can tell you it is phenomenal.
Oh my god, it's so good. But you might you might want to
explore something new. You might notbe familiar with Japanese foods, and there

(05:53):
are so many different tastes and texturesit might open you up to something completely
different. Yeah. Absolutely, Ithink, you know, especially the street
foods, that's the key part offestivals in Japan that you know, they've
got all these stalls lining the streetthat you can grab and go and like
wander around, and so we tryreally hard to replicate that with these you
know, street food style that youcan just grab something and walk around and

(06:16):
enjoy the festival. To really replicatethat like authentic matsiti experience that you could
get in Japan. Yeah, definitely. I know that you are essentially a
kimono expert, so tell me alittle bit. I've done my research,
so tell us a little bit aboutwhat's going to be featured when it comes
to kimono's over at the festival.Absolutely, you've found me out. Yeah,
So we've We've got a couple ofthings happening, So of course there's

(06:40):
going to be a lot of stageperformances that involve kimoo. For example,
we have a Gagaku ensemble coming,which is traditional hay On period court music,
so they're going to be wearing beautifullike one thousand year old style kimono
from the hay On court. There'sgoing to be a you cut that dress,
try on booth. What's happening bothdays. There's going to be a

(07:03):
chemono meetup on Saturday at I believetwo pm, so there's going to be
quite and of course many vendors sellingkimono and different like traditional Japanese clothing,
so there's going to be quite alot of kimono. Cosplay will be a
lot of kimono there too, soyeah, quite a lot for anyone interested
in kimono. And you'll definitely seeme there both days in kimoono, of

(07:24):
course, I have no doubt.And let's talk a bit more about the
cosplay. What sort of cosplay doyou see normally at this festival? Sure,
yeah, so we always. Cosplayis a big part of our event,
you know, especially young people andAmericans really get into our costly events.
So you know, the big eventthat we have every year's a cost
play deathmatch. So we get alot of very talented cost players that come

(07:46):
in, you know, with fullyhomemade outfits that come for the competition.
There's a lot of photographers that comein to do you know, professional photography
at the event. So we seea pretty wide range of you know,
casual lot of the closet whatever youhave cosplay, and then some like really
fantastic like full body makeup professionally youknow, handmade outfits. Yeah, a

(08:07):
real good range. You know.Sometimes we see like families. Sometimes we
see some of the craziest There's acipher from Pokemon one year. We've had
hardboard Samurai one year. There's somereally wild like full body outfits. It's
always always so much fun. Peoplewill often ask me when they see me
in kimono. They'll be like,oh, did you make that? And

(08:28):
I'm like, no, No,I am not that talented. I'm not
that person. So much respect andlove for those people, but I just
put this on this morning. Ido not have that skill. So so
much respect for that because I justI cannot. You and me both two
of the big things that we haveis of course we have our stage performances
and then we also have some cultureworkshops. So for the stage we've got

(08:50):
quite a few performances this year.A lot of Tycho a full of different
tycho groups are coming. The Gagakugroup I already mentioned. We're going to
have interactive dances that people can do, for example, the classic obone dance.
We're going to have someone lead thatdance and teach everyone how to do
it. There's also going to bea three D calligraphy demonstration by Hiroko Watanabe,

(09:13):
who builds these three D visual displayswith calligraphy. And then also the
show Up Boston Students, which isa Boston branch of a Japanese university,
are going to do the Solan Bushidance. And then a few other groups
doing dance performances. And then forculture workshops that are interactive and meant for
people to participate in, we havea few really interesting ones this year.

(09:35):
For example, the Boston which isthe say branch of the Ceremony, is
going to be doing a tea demonstrationwhere people can actually sit and be a
part of the ceremony and have sometea. They're going to be Kavarna which
is flower arranging. They're also goingto be an event I'm participating in,
which is the competitive Karuta demonstration,which is always fun to explain because it

(09:58):
sounds absolutely crazy. It is awarm card game sport based on a one
thousand year old home anthology. Okay, I am super intrigued. Yeah,
so that's going to be happening too. Also, there's going to be Showgi
the Showgey Club from Boston is goingto be here. People can play that.

(10:18):
I've got a few other things likethe first Sumo where you can build
a little papers in a wrestler andfight with it. And Japan Airlines is
going to do like origami, paperplanes and oligraphy demonstrations. Yeah, a
lot of different workshops that people canparticipate in both days. Something I wanted
to mention it sounds like you've gota really a poignant event planned for the

(10:41):
weekend. I mean, there's alot of fun going on, but tell
us about this event involving trees.What's happening here? Yes, So,
as I previously mentioned, you know, fostering peace and community is really important
to the festival. So one ofthe events that we're doing this year is
we're collaborating with grad students from Harvard, and we're going to have a booth
made from recycled would where they're goingto be. They're going to have seeds

(11:03):
and saplings from actual trees that survivethe atomic bombing in Hiroshima, So that
way you can take them home andyou can grill them yourselves, and you
know, the life going keep thingsyou know, alive outside, spreading across
the world, hopefully taking peace withyou from those seeds that spread around the
world. So we're really excited forthat abot activity this year. So there

(11:26):
is a lot going on, andI would imagine this is going to be
a super expensive thing to get inor am I wrong on that? Oh
well, it's the w Yes,it has been from the beginning thankfully free.
So far we've been able to keepit that way links to just a
great number of sponsors and also donationsfrom our guests, is like really important

(11:50):
to us. You know, thestage alone to rent the state costs thirty
thousand dollars. WHOA Okay, soyou know, these these festivals are very
so we are only able to keepit free thanks to the generous donations of
everybody. So you know, ifyou want to support us, we feel
free. You can donate when you'reat the festival, or you can find
us on Indiegogo. We have acampaign there with a few different awards that

(12:13):
you can get if you donate.For example, speaking of food, you
know, the food is very popular. The lines get quite long, so
if you want a fast pass tocheat the line and go to the front,
you can donate on our Indiegogo andget a fast pass and that'll cut
you straight to the front of theline three times to get your food ahead
of the rest. So yeah,we one hundred percent only exist because of

(12:35):
everybody who has supported us. Well, it's obviously a labor of love and
there is a lot going into this, So let's kind of go over really
quickly again. Dates, times whereyou're going to be all that good stuff.
Yes, So the dates are Apriltwenty seventh and April twenty eighth,
Saturday and Sunday, eleven am tofive pm at Boston Come and most of

(12:56):
the events are happening Saturday and Sunday, so you can one day both days.
There's going to be some things thatare different each day and some things
that are the same each day.So lots of parking in the area,
so it should be a really goodtime. So if people want to find
out more, they want to geta list, or maybe they want to
donate beforehand, get that fast passso they don't have to wait in line

(13:18):
for their tako yaki forever in aday. How can they find you on
the internet and just on social mediaas well. Yes, so you can
find us at Japan Festival Boston dotorg. Okay our website, and then
we also have Facebook and Instagram whereit's just Japan Festival Boston. You can
find us there and follow us.So we've been posting a lot of previews
of vendors and faith performances, foodbooths, all of that you can find

(13:41):
there. Super exciting. All right, aur, thank you so much for
your time and have a great timeat the festival. I'm looking forward to
it. Thank you. I absolutepleasure to be here. Have a safe
and healthy weekend. Please join meagain next week for another edition of the
show. I'm Nicole Davis from WBZNews Radio on iHeartRadio.
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