Annual JapanFest shares heritage and culture

Photo by Maria Furukawa

From kimonos and bicycle-riding robots to anime shops and samurai demonstrations, the annual Japanese Festival (JapanFest for short) celebrates the beauty of the Japanese culture. Every year during the fall, thousands of curious and fascinated people from all over the Atlanta and Gwinnett area flock to the Infinite Energy Center, or the Gwinnett Center, to experience the true essence of Japanese heritage.

JapanFest is not an average festival — martial arts exhibitions, sushi-making demonstrations and taiko drum performances are just some of the noteworthy features highlighted at this event. With such an enormous space for the festival, event attendees are able to venture between floors as well as room spaces — from the 11:30 a.m. taiko drum performance on Stage 1 to the 3:00 p.m. taido karate exhibition on Stage 3.

Exhibitions and demonstrations aside, various booths in the Food Court area enable people to have a taste of common Japanese cuisine as well as promote Japanese businesses, including origami art and travel opportunities. Every inch of space is used to create entertainment; hallways contained children’s games such as wanage (ring toss) and balloon fishing, while smaller rooms consist of beautiful bonsai and flower arrangements. Needless to say, everyone at the JapanFest has the opportunity to enjoy and experience some aspect of Japanese

Popular attractions that engage children and young adults are the Japanese-incorporated games. One of the most memorable games is the rubber-band gun game. This game features rubber-band guns made completely out of sticks with the objective of shooting rubber bands in order to hit a target. Three tries later, the sharpshooter will receive a prize depending on how many of the targets he or she was able to knock down. Knocking down no targets or only one will earn participants a packet of tissues.

While it may appear odd to Americans, receiving tissue packets is not uncommon for Japanese people. Often times, in a mall or a heavily populated area, people who are promoting a service or a product advertise by handing out tissue packets to consumers. In this way, by receiving a tissue packet, regardless of the result of the game, a participant is able to leave the festival having experienced a company’s sponsored event.

Another game available, the metal maze game, sponsored by Kubota, consisted of a metallic maze (in the form of the word, Kubota) in which a participant uses a metal rod to trace the maze without touching the sides. The prize awarded depends on how far one can progress through the maze without setting off the buzzer. For instance, at the first checkpoint, the prize is a pen and at one of more difficult checkpoints, a company cup. Although an intense game, people enjoyed the challenge and the pleasant experience with the company representatives.

One of the most popular games in JapanFest is the chopstick challenge. This game involves chopsticks and ninja-like reflex skill. This Murata sponsored game comprises of attempting to balance three Murata Boy (bicycle-riding robot) figures on a narrow, elevated track, with no parts of the figure sticking out of the track.

To add more fun and pressure to the game, each participant has ten seconds to balance all three figures with chopsticks. Prizes from this game range from origami cranes (with Murata logos decorating it) and Murata pens and notepads. All-in-all, the games are an entertaining way for Japanese businesses to promote their services or products in a memorable way.

The Japanese Festival brings Japanese heritage, culture and entertainment to people who have an interest in experiencing the uniqueness of the nation. With the event being held every year, JapanFest volunteers strive to spread the value and beauty of the culture in the most memorable and original way. By unifying a common interest of people of all backgrounds, JapanFest is an event worth experiencing.