The 32nd Annual “Arizona MATSURI: A Festival of Japan” was held at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix, Arizona on February 27-28, 2016. The Arizona Matsuri is a two-day celebration of Japanese culture organized by the Arizona Matsuri Steering Committee whose mission is to introduce the culture of Japan to Arizona. It is estimated that around 85,000 people attended this year’s event, with more than 300 performers, vendors, and organizations over the two days.
This year’s Arizona Matsuri began on Saturday with a Mikoshi Procession led by Ondo dancers made up of organizers, performers, and even visitors. It was shortly followed by an Opening Ceremony where Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Vice Mayor Daniel Valenzuela, and Consul General of Japan Harry H. Horinouchi provided remarks. This year’s festival theme was Momotaro. Momotaro, or “Peach Boy,” is a popular hero in Japanese folklore. It is said that an old couple found a peach floating in a river, and when they opened it, a boy emerged. As the boy grew older, he set off on an adventure. The Arizona Ondo Kai concluded the opening ceremonies with a Momotaro dance.
The Japan Information and Culture Center of the Consulate General of Japan, Los Angeles also operated a booth located during the festival. An estimated 500 festival-goers visited the booth, collecting hundreds of Niponica magazines, JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program pamphlets, and various materials, including brochures and giveaways from NHK World, Japan Foundation, JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), and JNTO (Japan National Toursim Organization). Some of the visitors also tried their hand at the kendama Japanese toy displayed at the booth.
The Arizona Matsuri was a bustling event with this year’s newly-added rakugo performers telling comedic stories to entertain the crowds. People were also able to visit various other booths, watch performances, and enjoy demonstrations, including Japanese dance, music, martial arts, cosplay, a kimono fashion show, calligraphy, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony. The Haiku Expo also returned with even more entries for 2016.