Festival Asia: London’s largest indoor festival on all things Asia

Yesterday I travelled up to London for the first ever Festival Asia. Billed as ‘London’s largest indoor festival on all things Asia’, it sounded like it would be right up my street. The 3-day festival was held in London’s Tobacco Dock, which is not a venue I had ever been to before. It’s a little out of the way, in east London, and it really is quite an interesting space. The building is a Grade I listed warehouse, constructed some time around 1811 primarily as a store for imported tobacco. The venue has character, but it was quite an ambitiously large space to use for a new event.

I arrived just in time to see Taiko West perform. Taiko West were one of the few Japanese acts to be on the main stage, so I wanted to make sure I caught them in action. A lot of the performances throughout the three days were repeated, but unfortunately the other Japanese act I had been hoping to see, Hibiki Ichikawa and Akari Mochizuki, did not play on the Saturday. Still, Taiko West did not disappoint, and the taiko drums really sounded great in that space.

Although I attended the festival to enjoy every aspect of Asian culture presented to me, I naturally went on the hunt for Japanese things. The food was a little disappointing – I had seen photos of sushi on the event website, but the only Japanese food that seemed to be on offer for lunch was all chicken based (I don’t eat chicken).

Festival Asia

Luckily Wagashi were there to save the day with dorayaki and matcha drinks!

Festival Asia

Festival Asia

I had an interesting chat with a chap from the British Go Association, who explained the basics of the game to me and told me that the game was popular in Japan, China and Korea. Go (囲碁 / igo), literally meaning ‘encircling game’ is a Chinese strategy game in which two players place their black and white stones on the vacant intersections of a board, attempting to surround a larger area of the board than their opponent.

Go - Festival Asia

Playing Go - Festival Asia

Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day, which certainly helped to ignite the festival atmosphere. I didn’t quite feel like I was at an Asian festival, but I did spot some beautiful kimonos and other traditional Asian costumes as I sat people watching.

Festival Asia

There were stalls selling Asia goods of all descriptions, including anime character goods. I managed to resist buying something new and fluffy.

Festival Asia

As well as the Japanese entertainment, there were of course acts from lots of other parts of Asia. In particular, I enjoyed the Indonesian dancing, Korean music, Chinese lion dance and the belly dancing (which was mesmerizing!).

At £12.50 for an advance adult ticket, or £15 on the door, I think I would have felt a little disappointed if I had paid to get in. The website for the event promised great things, but I felt the Festival Asia still had a little growing to do. In a couple of years this could be a really great festival, but right now it is still very much in its infancy. I did really enjoy what I saw, but after a couple of hours I felt I had seen everything and to be honest I was a little bored. There wasn’t even that much I wanted to spend my money on! Still, I think this is a great idea for a festival in London, and with just a little bit more work and more support from acts in and around the city, next year’s event (if it returns) could be really good.

6 thoughts on “Festival Asia: London’s largest indoor festival on all things Asia

  1. I thought of going to this, but didn’t because I thought there wouldn’t be enough Japanese things for me (^◇^;) The belly dancing and other acts look great though! Hopefully they’ll come back next year with even more 🙂

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  2. Adelaide, South Australia, has an Asia Festival every year now (maybe five so far) with a focus nation each year. It runs for more than a week and entry is free. Most of it is by the River Torrens but other events such as film festivals are elsewhere. The is always a few recent-release films being screened and are well-attended.
    Our national taiko group is Taikoz and is well-esteemed internationally with inclusion of Riley Lee, the PhD in shakuhachi of which he is a rated master.
    Adelaide also hosts a Kodomo-no-hi every year (about 12 so far) – the only state to do so – with around 3000 people attending.

    Finally, shame on you for putting an ‘s’ on the end of kimono. Let’s set a good example – no plural for Japanese words.
    The Down-under pedant.

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    • Hi Ross – thanks for stopping by! The festival in Adelaide sounds great, and good that it’s free too. Sounds like a really fun, well established festival!

      As for pluralising ‘kimono’… I do believe that’s completely fine if you’re writing in English. The Cambridge dictionary thinks so anyway! 😉

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  3. Hello, would you happen to know what the japanese food stall was called where you commented you don’t eat chicken? The dishes were great there but I didn’t get the name of it 😦

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