Japan Autumn Fest to be held Nov. 28
With the cheerful beat of taiko drums, lyrical tune of traditional Japanese music and carnival foods from the Land of the Rising Sun, Nihonjin Akimatsuri, or the Japanese Autumn Festival, is back!
This year, the 36th annual festival is slated for Nov. 28 at Ypao Beach Park from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Hosted by Japan Club of Guam, a local group of Japanese companies and individuals, the event draws more than 30,000 people every year, according to organizers.
Traditional “bon odori” dancing is at the core of the festival – literally. Colorful lanterns will adorn the site as taiko drummers and well-trained dancers in summer kimonos perform on a central stage.
“You’ll notice that people will start dancing around the stage – and you should join in,” says Daijiro Meguro, who heads the club’s youth division. “Even if you don’t know how to dance, dancers on stage and around you will show you how to perform the traditional moves.”
There will also be various performances such as Japanese “wadaiko” drumming, aikido martial arts demonstrations, Japanese folk dancing and synchronized flag waving from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We invited wadaiko players and folk dancers from Japan, while local aikido and Japanese traditional dance groups will also perform on stage,” Meguro says.
Another main event is the festive parading of “mikoshi,” or portable shrines, throughout the festival. There will be three mikoshi, one borne by children from the Japanese School of Guam, one by women and another by men – all raucously moving from one end of the festival to the other gleefully cheering “wasshoi! wasshoi!”
Plenty of food and game booths will also be on hand around the main stage. Stir-fried “yakisoba” noodles, skewered chicken “yakitori,” shaved ice, cold beer and soft drinks are some of the traditional Japanese festival foods that will be offered. These foods will be prepared by local Japanese restaurants and food shops, while drinks have been donated by Japanese and local companies.
And for the kids (old and young), there are game booths where you can enjoy trying to scoop up goldfish, rubber balls and small dolls; ring tossing; putting and shooting hoops. If you have kids, they’ll have a blast.
Since food and game booths will not accept cash, you’ll need to buy tickets at a counter at the entrance to the event. Tickets will be sold in groups of 10 for $10 each. Advance tickets are available at the Japan Club of Guam and Tokyo Mart.
In addition to the Ypao Beach Park parking lot, parking will also be available at the former Greyhounds Track lot. Free shuttle bus service will ferry festival-goers to and from the event.
The Japan Club of Guam has hosted the annual festival since 1970. Part of the proceeds from the event are donated to the Japanese school on Guam, according to Meguro.
“Originally, we started this as a small Japanese community event in a hotel parking lot to show our children a typical traditional Japanese festival,” Meguro said. “It has grown year after year, and today, it is considered the island’s largest annual festival, enjoyed not only by Japanese but a lot of locals as well.”
In fact, the Japanese Autumn Festival offers a rare glimpse of Japanese culture by condensing a variety of seasonal activities such as bon odori dancing and mikoshi carrying into a single event tailored to Guam.
“Since typhoons often hit here in October, and our members in the hotel and restaurant industries are too busy to volunteer during the holiday season, we usually have the festival on the third or fourth Saturday of November,” Meguro says.
“This festival is organized and operated by volunteers and with the help of donations, so we may not be able to run it as smoothly as professionals do,” Meguro says. “But this is a homemade community event that guarantees a fun and friendly atmosphere.
“I hope many locals will join us,” he adds, “and enjoy a night of Japanese tradition.”
Hours: Nov. 28, 2 p.m. (booths open), 4-9 p.m. (stage performances)
Location: Ypao Beach Park (next to Hilton Guam Resort & Spa)