Esquimalt’s Gorge Park Pavilion doubled as an important location for the region’s Japanese community as it hosted the annual Japanese Cultural Fair for the first time.
Saturday’s event was the first time in the fair’s 22-year history that it was held at the newly reopened pavilion, and early indications show the change is a popular one with attendees, as organizers said this year’s event was one of the busiest. This year also saw the date of the fair moved up from its traditional October slot.
“It’s a hybrid of modern, with people doing presentations on Japanese cinema and anime, but we also have more traditional stuff like tea ceremonies, flower arranging, and of course things like our bazaar where people can buy anything Japan,” said event co-leader Craig Mercer with the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society.
Fellow co-leader Yukari Peerless added that the festival serves as an important celebration of Japanese, and Japanese-Canadian culture and history, of which there is a lot in Greater Victoria.
The Ross Bay Cemetery, for example, has 152 Japanese gravestones, and the Gorge Park grounds became known nationwide in 1907 when Hayato Takata and Yoshitaro Kishida founded Canada’s first Japanese tea house and garden.
Performances and displays featured at this year’s fair included kendo and traditional tea ceremony demonstrations, lectures on Japanese culture and bonsai, as well as kimono dressing activities and, of course, food like onigiri and curry rice.
“The parking lot was full eight minutes after the fair started, so if that’s any indicator, we are very, very pleased with the turnout,” said Mercer. “I think people are just loving it.”