Japan Matsuri 2011
A show I was looking forward to this year was the 2011 Japan Matsuri ,held this year at County Hall by the London Eye.. Unlike the July HYPER JAPAN Show at Olympia in London this show was more traditional in it's approach ,plus being held outside the scope of the event was a lot larger .
Now another Bonus about this event is the fact that it's free event with closures of part of the area ,like Westminster Bridge and the Victoria Embankment,and Belvedere Road which hosted a large part of the event. .
Officially opening at 11am with the ceremony by the Japanese Ambassador. Three stages where set up one at the entrance to county Hall and two in Belvedere Road ,one at each end. Consisting of Martial arts stage and the Belvedere stage which hosted various music and dance.
In-between the two stages in Belvedere Road lay two lines of Stalls selling and showing their wares from Food and drink to arts and crafts ,paintings and clothes. With many turning up in Traditional dress Westminster was transformed into Japan for the Day.
Geisha's abound in Westminster ,pretty cool i say.
As you entered from the whichever end their was a a representative to greet you and hand you a fully printed timetable and programme of events for the day.
After scouring around seeing what was on on fellow site member ''Cloudtoe'' and I ventured through County hall past the main stage where we had just missed a performance ,coming through County hall (which I have never been in or to before ,and have lived in London some forty years) it's quite surprising what a Grand Building it is.
(Glossy programme ,Left)
In the Belvedere Road foyer was the exhibition of the tragedies that happened in Japan earlier this year ,Entitled ''Yet i still dare to Hope'' ,with photos of the destruction and the rebuilding of the effected areas.
People could leave donations and sign the guest-book which are related to the victims of the disaster.
As you ventured out into Belvedere Road there was a buzz about as the road was alive with the smells of food and sounds of energy as events took place on each of the stages .
With masses of cold food to buy and eat the area was getting quite busy and the bustle of a good event was in the air . Spotting a seller that I purchased a T-Shirt from at Hyper Japan I pointed Cloudtoe in their direction knowing he would be interested in their wares of original design T-shirts and Canvas mounted prints all from their own Calligraphy and artwork.
Opposite their was a another seller who had original artworks selling from as little as £30.00 ,but of course ''Cloudtoe'' was eying up the £600.00 touches (he kept returning to view ,but in the end held off as he has to eat for the next month and a £600 painting won't feed him for 30 days. ).
We now wandered to the martial arts stage where we were just in time to see a demonstration of Kendo ,as the instructor gave the watching crowd a breakdown of the art the students donned their garb and faced each other hitting each other on the head and body (which are of course covered with Armour and protective padding) ,the sun was coming out and just standing there I was getting warm ,how they must have felt under all that Armour must have been mighty warm as they professionally demoed to the crowd for a full half hour.
After this we made our way to the main stage through County Hall. As we arrived Abby Scott was on stage performing . As we came through the hall you could hear this pleasant singing voice ,catching the end of her song ,we waited while she prepared to perform a special song with members of the London Japanese School ,entitled ''A song for Japan'' .
Abby Scott prepares on stage.
The song was recorded after Abby had been to Japan and witnessed the results of the Tsunami . And in a bid to give something back to them this song was written for the relief fund.
Everyone lay silent as she began her performance ,all the more touching as the kids came in for the chorus. .
It was a very good performance especially being held on a outside stage . Everyone seemed mighty impressed by the song and it's performance . (you can view the video below) .
Thinking of food we where about to leave when Cloudtoe they where setting up for the Daiko drummers from the London Japanese School ,so we waited for there appearance .
As the performers gathered from the London Japanese school ,their drums being set up is was no time before the young performers where at their positions and the music began.
It's quite amazing that such young performers could give such a lively performance ,beating the drums with such precision ,they performed five numbers in their half hour set. ,all I know if I had to do that for one I would be mighty puffed and they did this while being watched by a large crowd. .
I was lucky to get such a good spot ,Brilliant performance
I look forward to seeing them perform at next years event.( maybe HYPER JAPAN could get them for their next show).
After a food stop at one of the many sellers we headed to the martial arts stage once again , Goju -Ryu Karate was being performed ,we decided to get refreshments at a café that over looked the demo . Right after the Gojo -ryu demo we got good positions to vie w the Akido demo by the London Aikikai Akido club.
This was a fun and popular demo of a art made famous in the West by Steven Seagal. Akido is unusual art as it uses the energy of a opponents attack to deflect and utilize in self defence. The instructors and students gave a varied demo using sticks .Bokken ( wooden sword) and staff..
My camera was getting a good workout as these guys and girls where throwing each other about in the hot sun.
But no it was not over as straight after the Akido demo we had a treat in store as the instructors and students from the oldest Martial arts club in Europe , The Budokwai in London.
What's more Japanese Female Judo Champion Maki Tsukada is a guest at the Budokwai where she is teaching ,Maki Tsukada was the Female heavyweight Gold Medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the Silver Medallist at the Bejing Olympics where she was pipped to the Gold by Tong Wen of China.
Maki Tsukada with the Gold in Athens 2004
The Budokwai show their art, Maki Tsukada Kneels looking on.
Maki will stay in the UK till after the 2012 Olympics ,then she will go to Scotland it is believed.
One thing that showed about this demo was that these Guys and Girls where used to performing in front of crowds ,they looked a tad more relaxed and had time for a joke amongst themselves.
This filtered down to the watching crowd as they put together a demo that would show Judo as the dynamic sport and fighting art it is.
They even put on a small match where their own champion would fight five seniors and to win he would have to beat all five. The crowd where reeled in as people where flying through the air and smashing in to the mat. If you have not experienced this kind of martial art before it can be quite a eye opener . Of course being jujitsu exponent I watched the techniques with a passion and Cloudtoe was reeled in as he was a Junior Judo Champion in his younger years.
Half hour goes mighty fast with this much action taking place and before long the demo was over and everyone had experienced the Devastation of Judo in one of it's purest forms.
Dynamic was the word that sprang to mind and one that confirmed the Budokwai's Passion for the art..
By now it was getting on in the day and the area was getting busy ,what was a easy to navigate area in the morning was getting a bit jammed by the afternoon.
We headed to the main stage to see what was happening ,when we arrived the area was pretty busy ,as it was turn for all the hopefuls who had turned up to perform in a X Factor style show aptly called ''Nodojiman : The J Factor. This went on for about a hour and half, We did venture back to see the Traditional Japanese Dance team (Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyo) but again the stage area was so busy it was hard to see from the back, but it looked interesting.
After another browse around the stalls and some purchasing on my part ,we headed of as it was getting quite busy and thought best probably leave before the crowds start heading out ,as I had driven there.
We did catch a performance on the Belvedere Stage as we left ,which was the Hibiki ensemble ,Koto,Shamisen, Shakuhachi. This was quite a pleasant performance of Stringed instruments and Flute. (they seemed to be running bit late as I am sure it was around quarter to four around then. .
So all in all Japan Matsuri was a great day out ,may be next year I'll plan a bit better and stay on till the end of the show (like take the day of work the next day) .What's amazing is how organized a event it was and all seemed to run as scheduled without to much mishap or any from what I saw.
Congratulations must go to the organizers and am looking forward to next years show . Crazy thing is you can pay fifteen ,twenty even sixty pounds to see a show and not see no where near as much talent as was on show here.
The only people I feel sorry for are the ones that missed it.
See you there in 2012 ,watch this space for details.