Stationed on Guam? Don't miss the Japan Autumn Fest Nov. 19

Photos courtesy of Japan Club of Guam
Photos courtesy of Japan Club of Guam

Stationed on Guam? Don't miss the Japan Autumn Fest Nov. 19

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Guam

With the cheerful beat of taiko drums, lyrical tunes of traditional Japanese music and carnival foods from the Land of the Rising Sun, Nihonjin Akimatsuri is back Nov. 19 on Guam following a 2-year absence!

Akimatsuri is a Japanese traditional festival to welcome the arrival of autumn. On the island, The Japan Club of Guam, a local group of Japanese companies and individuals, has hosted the celebration every year since 1970 at Ypao Beach Park on the third or fourth Saturday of November.

The 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. During the event, attendees can expect plenty of food and game booths, as well as a lot of entertainment on the main stage.

The festival originally started as a small Japanese community event to give children a taste culture from the Land of the Rising Sun. It has grown year after year, and today it is considered the island’s largest annual festival - enjoyed not only by Japanese but also a lot of locals and tourists. The event draws more than 30,000 people every year, according to organizers. The festivities were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

After its 2-year absence, the festival will be held from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Nov. 19 at Governor Joseph Flores Beach Park, aka Ypao Beach Park. With the theme of “Guam, Reboot!! 2022,” it also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of The Japan Club of Guam.

“With the pandemic, we couldn’t host Akimatsuri for the past 2 years, although we had planned and prepared for the event,” said Kimi Passauer, spokesman for JCG. “So, we all are very excited to host it again to show the Japanese festival culture and traditions to the people on Guam.”

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. People will start dancing around the stage – and you should join in. 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, including Japanese folk dancing, Hula dancing, wadaiko drum performance, as well as a tuna filleting event. For this year’s event, a couple of Japanese groups from Japan will demonstrate their dojosukui (scooping loaches) and hula dances, while a team from Saipan will perform its Saipan Awa Odori dancing.

Another main event is the festive parading of “mikoshi,” or portable shrines, throughout the festival. There will be three local groups carrying mikoshi - one made up of children from the Japanese School of Guam, another with all women and the last one all men. You’ll enjoy watching the groups carry the mikoshi from one end of the festival grounds 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.

The Japanese Chefs Association will demonstrate filleting a whole maguro (tuna) and 2,000 packs of maguro sashimi (raw fish) will be given to visitors free of charge during the festival.

For the kids (old and young), there are game booths to enjoy, from scooping up goldfish, rubber balls and small dolls, to ring tossing, putting golf balls and shooting hoops.

Since food and game booths will not accept cash, you’ll need to buy tickets at the entrance to the event.

Tickets will be sold in groups of 10 for $10 each.

Get your tickets in advance to avoid a long line at the ticket booth. You can buy tickets at the Japan Club of Guam or Pier Marine [1st floor] (Mon – Tue and Thu - Fri, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Oct. 31 - Nov. 18.) and Tokyo Mart in Tamuning (10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Nov. 14–18) or Japanese School in Guam (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Nov. 5 -16.)

“A nice uchiwa fan with illustrations by students from Japanese School of Guam will be distributed to those who buy the tickets on a first come first served bases,” Passauer said.

Parking is available at the parking lot across from OKA Payless super market, and a free shuttle service will ferry festival-goers to and from the event every 10 minutes from 4 p.m. - 10:15 p.m.

According to Passauer, there are no plastic bags available at the festival site, so attendees are encouraged to bring an ECO bag to carry their food and goods.

For more information about Akimatsuri, visit the website.

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