Every year over Memorial day weekend the City of Columbus, Ohio holds the Asian Festival downtown at Franklin Park. The event is free to attend and there are many live performances from different Asian cultures, tons of ethnic food, a informational pavilion on Asian countries and a open air market. It has been a couple of years since I’ve gone so Quat and I decided to make it a De Jack event and dressed up in yukata for the experience.
Overall the day was pretty good although we did have a mishap where Quat blew out the straps on one of her geta while we were walking in the opening ceremonies parade. That involved a 45 minute trip back to the car by taking the buses that were running for the event. I picked up a cheap uchiwa with The Great WAve off Kanagawa by Hokusai on it but mostly just spent my money on food. After spending nearly all day at the festival we met up with Kelsey at Sushi Ting for dinner and I stuffed my face with a mango roll and some cold Soba~ delicious!
I must confess though I’m always a tad bit disappointed with the Asian Festival. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fun event and brings cultural diversity to the community. However there were several things that bothered me and I feel like they need to be said.
So during the opening ceremonies parade many different performance groups and people representing Asian countries from around the world participate. Every single group except ours had people either from that country or descendants representing. So basically we had three Caucasian girls dressed in wafuku representing Japan… When we went to the info pavilion we got accosted by an older woman who said we should be in the parade and she linked us up with another girl who was in kimono. We were all glad to walk in the parade but it was a little sad that if we had not agreed to there would have been no one representing Japan at all! This surprises me a little since there is a fairly large Japanese population in Columbus. According to my friend this didn’t just happen this year but has happened in years past where no one is representing Japan in the parade.
Secondly, out of the entire open air market there was only one stall that was selling Japanese goods. Wait…there was an anime booth as well. So, ok two out of probably at least 60 or so vendors! The one stall that I got my uchiwa at also did not have a lot of merchandise either. This, shockingly enough is an improvement. When I went two years ago no one was selling anything even remotely Japanese related. I’m not sure why this happens but it makes me sad, so here we have another area where Japanese culture is barely represented.
One of the biggest draws to the Asian Festival every year besides the food is the live performances. It is a chance for people to get to experience traditional music and dance from across the globe, which is pretty cool. Again though I was disappointed in the fact that out of all the performance groups there were only two who represented Japan. The first was a local taiko kids group. They are usually there every year but only ever play two pieces. I’m not sure why that is but with all the set up time to get the drums in place it seems a shame for them to do such a short set. The set up time is literally longer than their performance. The second group which I was looking forward to seeing was a dance group and they were supposed to go right after the taiko performers. Instead they got switched around for the Chinese Opera group which had already done a performance earlier in the day. I don’t know why the switch happened but I watched the group of dancers get off the bus like 3 hours before their set so it wasn’t like they were not on time. Also the taiko and dance group only had one performance each day while every other group had at least two slot times, sometimes three!
I’m not sure if there is some political bs going on behind the scenes or what or if it’s just due to some unfortunate circumstances but like I said before it does make me sad. I’d be curious to see if anyone else who went noticed these things. I would really love to see more representation for Japan at the Asian Festival.
We did manage to get some pictures even though the sun was so bright and a lot of them look washed out.