When I went to the Brighton Japan Festival last year (weekend 1 & weekend 2) I had only recently returned from Japan and was dying for a hit of Japanese culture. I had been living in Bognor Regis where the only way to get a taste of Japan is to buy sushi from Tesco (yuck!) and found everything I needed at this lively and fun festival in Brighton. I was in a different place last year, and so it’s probably not fair if I compare last year’s Brighton Japan Festival to this year’s. However, I will say this: the line-up this year didn’t seem as exciting as last year, I don’t think there were as many stalls, and the food definitely wasn’t as good!
The Brighton Japan Festival is split into two weekends, but I feel it could easily be done in one weekend. This coming weekend will be the Asahi Anime Festival with all the pop culture, manga, cosplay and fashion stuff, and I’m sure it will be fun. I won’t be attending though, as I’ve decided to stay in London and go to Okinawa Day 2012. My plan was to attend both days of the Brighton Japan Festival last weekend (the Moshi Matsuri, which was supposed to showcase the more traditional side of Japanese culture, rather than the modern stuff like cosplay), but I felt so disappointed with how the festival was on the Saturday that I didn’t bother going back on the Sunday. Apart from i.Ro.Ha (shamisen player Hibiki and enka singer Alika Mochida), who I have seen many times before, there wasn’t enough on the Sunday line-up to entice me back for another day.
So, this post is really just about the Brighton Japan Festival 2012 on Saturday 23rd June. It was a chilly and blustery day, which didn’t help the slightly drab atmosphere. Things really did brighten up when Stanford Taiko came on though. Stanford Taiko were, for me, the clear highlight of the day. I always love taiko, whoever’s playing, but it was nice to see someone different, and to have a group all the way from America was pretty cool.
Stanford Taiko had a lot of passion and energy, which really came through in their exciting performance, which included a lot of movement. They also used a couple of extra instruments which I hadn’t seen used with taiko before – the one covered in beads, and the one that looks like flat fans.
As I mentioned above, the food at the festival this year wasn’t very impressive. There was no takoyaki, which was a shame, and when I tried to order curry after midday I was told it wasn’t ready yet. Still, my favourite wagashi (Japanese sweets) company, An-An, were there – always reliable and always delicious!
This anmitsu was really nice – I could have happily gone back for seconds!
As the food at the festival wasn’t great, I decided to go and check out one of the local Japanese restaurants – Oki-Nami. I’ll write more about that later in a separate post. While I was there, as luck would have it, the omikoshi (portable shrine) parade from the festival went by!
There didn’t seem to be as many stalls at the festival this year, but the stalls that were there were good. My favourite new discovery was Cuttlefishlove Kanzashi- beautiful hand-made Japanese-style hair accessories and brooches.
Ribbonreal also had some interesting interior accessories…
And Sugarglass had adorable kawaii hand-crafted accessories and toys.
Tofu Cute were there too, satisfying everyone’s need for Pocky and random sweets from Japan.
Apart from Stanford Taiko, I didn’t find the entertainment on the Saturday all that inspiring. However, part of the reason for this was that I’d seen a lot of it before. Hopefully there were some people who just happened upon the festival while out and about in Brighton and discovered something new that they didn’t know about Japanese culture. I think I’ve been to too many similar events recently and seen a lot of the same stuff again and again, and I’m starting to tire of it. I really hope I find something new to get excited about at Okinawa Day this weekend!
For more information about the Brighton Japan Festival, please visit their website: www.brightonjapan.com.
Oh and, P.S., thanks to everyone who voted for my photo in the Brighton Japan Festival photo contest. I won! Unfortunately I was only able to claim half of the prize in the end (long story…) but hopefully my washi accessory set from The Japanese Shop should be arriving in the post soon.