Have you ever watched anime, listened to J-Pop, watched a Samurai film and thought that Japan was such a fantastic and exotic place? Well, you are right! However, it can be difficult to learn about the Japanese culture and all that it has to offer from mere Youtube videos or college courses. You could travel to Japan but it is quite expensive, and without a translator it’ll add to the hardship. Thankfully an event called Matsuri is held every year in downtown Phoenix where folks gather together to show what Japanese culture is all about.
“The Matsuri is a two-day festival featuring the culture of Japan. The Matsuri is under the aegis of Arizona Matsuri, a non-profit organization, whose members are drawn from the Arizona Buddhist Church, the Phoenix Himeji Sister City Committee, the Japanese American Citizens League, Desert Cross Community Church, the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, the Japanese Business Association of Arizona, and interested individuals. The Matsuri is the means for the Arizona Matsuri to fullfill its mission of introducing the arts and culture of Japan to Arizona.”
This was my first year attending Matsuri and I have to say that I had a wonderful time! The food vendors all sold delicious wares from ramen to curry, along with Kirin and Sapporo beer within a
short distance of one another.(The snow cones were amazing!) A variety of other shops were set up selling anime, bonsai trees, art, clothing, and so much more! They had three stages for events that featured either music, traditional dances, or fighting techniques all unique to Japanese culture. Holding Matsuri in downtown Phoenix was a great choice since it was already a beautiful and unique setting that is exotic to most of the spread out Arizona.
There was even a cosplay presence at Matsuri as Samurai Comics held cosplay events both on Saturday and Sunday. Various Arizona cosplayers/artists such as Amber Skies Cosplay, Natalie Arvizu Cosplay, Johnny Carwell Jr, Draskia and so many others! Even cosplayers dressed in gear head to toe wrestled with the heat the entire day just to show their love for their favorite anime characters. Everyone I got to chat with was excited and welcoming to photos and chatting about Japanese culture.
For all the awesome that Matsuri brought, it also had it’s share of downsides. Unfortunately not every vendor used devices like Square to accept credit card transactions which forced consumers to go to ATMs to withdraw cash. I honestly bought a lot less than I wanted because I just did not want to stand in line for cash, and know many others did as well, hopefully in 2017 vendors will be more progressive and rake in all of that extra money they well deserve. The amount of people that attended Matsuri was overwhelming and you had to either shove your way past a crowd or go through back ways in order to access certain vendors. While I am glad Matsuri does so well, I feel as though the booths either needed to be spaced out more or staff should have helped direct crowds of people into more efficient lines. The heat in February was far cooler than it will be during the summer but is still quite intense when you walk around for several hours. I began feeling light headed during the event and when I went for water I realized I had to stand in a line for the ATM before standing in another line for water, had I waited any longer I fear that I might have needed assistance from friends from heat exhaustion. Having water stations or designated areas where they accepted cards for water would have helped tremendously.
But these were minor hindrances caused by too much popularity! They are surely good problems to have that will be dealt with next Matsuri and it can hardly compare to the wonderful times it produced! I highly recommend attending next years Matsuri if you are in the Phoenix area!