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Eastern neighbors

Japanese culture is more than samurais and kimonos

 by Amanda L. Myers  published on Thursday, March 10, 2005

<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>Performers with U-Stage, a Japanese traveling troupe, make audience members laugh with their antics. /issues/arts/692395
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Performers with U-Stage, a Japanese traveling troupe, make audience members laugh with their antics.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>Sylvia Chen, a fine arts junior at Glendale Community College, dressed Japanese style for the Matsuri Festival./issues/arts/692395
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Sylvia Chen, a fine arts junior at Glendale Community College, dressed Japanese style for the Matsuri Festival.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>A member of the International Shinkendo Federation prepares for a Japanese swordmanship demonstration. Samurai swords are a powerful symbol in Japanese culture. Samurai swordsmen protected the Japanese emperor and people for centuries before modern weapons in the 1880s made the swords obsolete./issues/arts/692395
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
A member of the International Shinkendo Federation prepares for a Japanese swordmanship demonstration. Samurai swords are a powerful symbol in Japanese culture. Samurai swordsmen protected the Japanese emperor and people for centuries before modern weapons in the 1880s made the swords obsolete.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>A drummer with Phoenix's Taiko Kai bangs a Taiko drum during a performance at the Matsuri Festival. Taiko is a 2,000-year-old art and a staple of Japanese culture./issues/arts/692395
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
A drummer with Phoenix's Taiko Kai bangs a Taiko drum during a performance at the Matsuri Festival. Taiko is a 2,000-year-old art and a staple of Japanese culture.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>Thousands crowd the sidewalks of downtown Phoenix for the Matsuri Japanese Festival./issues/arts/692395
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Thousands crowd the sidewalks of downtown Phoenix for the Matsuri Japanese Festival.
 

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At the Matsuri Festival of Japan in downtown Phoenix, thousands �of locals and out-of-towners amble down the walkways of Heritage and Science Park. They are shopping for authentic Japanese products and eating at dozens of food stands, where barbecue fills the air with smoke and the smell of grilled chicken.

On three stages, Japanese and other performers model kimonos, sword fight, play Taiko drums and dance, educating audience members about Japanese culture while entertaining them.

Though it draws an enormous crowd every year, the festival remains unknown to most locals, as does Japanese culture, rich in tradition and beauty.

Performers at the festival say they feel an obligation to inform the public about the Japanese. Visitors say they enjoy learning through the performances.

Carlos Cortez, a pre-business junior minoring in Japanese, says too many people know too little about the Japanese and Asians in general.

"Everyone makes assumptions, like I'm really smart and good in math, that I know Ninja and martial arts" he says.

Though the Matsuri Festival won't take place again until next year, other cultural events and activities are going on this month that will act as entertainment and cultural enrichment.

They include Native Trails -- which offers hoop dancing and other performances by native Americans -- at the Scottsdale Civic Center, The Emerald Desert Irish Festival at Tempe Beach Park on Friday, the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Phoenix next Thursday, the Latin American art currently on display at the ASU Art Museum, and the Arizona Asian Festival in Phoenix's Heritage Square Park on April 22.

Reach the reporter at amanda.meyers@asu.edu.



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