If you’ve had a chance to visit the Japan House or attend a tea ceremony in their space at 2000 South Lincoln Avenue on the University of Illinois Campus, you know that it’s a cultural gem for our area. Celebrating 20 years at their current location, Japan House has kept its promise to be an inviting space to learn about Japanese culture and traditions. As Michael Darin, Education and Experience Coordinator of Japan House explained to Communications Manager Taylor Bauer, it’s not just about the past.
“Japan House is a place of tradition, but we’re also looking ahead. That’s what Matsuri is all about, a time to highlight tradition and the future in once grand celebration.” Matsuri will celebrate its 4th anniversary on September 9th from 2 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Michael noted that this year will feature more performances than ever, including two popular female Japanese rock bands: Shonen Knife, a very popular band within the indie-punk scene, and the 5,6,7,8’s, featured in the film Kill Bill. Michael noted that “these bands are high profile artists, and it’s very special that they’ll be here to perform.”
Michael emphasized amazing partnerships with local organizations and businesses, many of whom are providing help, staffing, or products through donation. Republic of Tea has helped to curate an event-specific Japan House 20th anniversary tea, and Triptych Brewing has worked with Michael and others to brew two beers exclusive to Matsuri.
Maverick Wines is also providing a sake inspired cocktail that not only reworks what is traditionally thought of as Sake, but also providing educational walkthroughs about the different ways to consume Sake. “The amount of support we’ve received from generous sponsors and the community makes us feel like our work is truly appreciated and enjoyed” Michael said.
Like the educational spin on the Sake, artists performing at Matsuri and its companion event for the 20th Anniversary at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts the day before are encouraged to make themselves accessible. “We want audience members to be able to speak to performers about their art and learn more about what’s happening rather than just watching from a distance,” Michael said of post-performance accessibility. “We want to highlight the culture of Japan, while also letting people learn more about the people behind the traditions.”
Everything from the performers to the food is being chosen carefully. Michael explained that the logo itself, a maneki-noko with all four paws stretched out and open, is deliberate. “Our maneki-noko, like much of Japanese culture, has very important non-verbal significance. All four paws are open and each leg is stretched out in jubilance. This is a celebration.”
There will be much to celebrate on September 9th at Japan House, located at the Arboretum of the University of Illinois. Admission is free, as is entry to the performances. A few paid experiences, such as their popular Japanese tea ceremonies, have been kept affordable to accommodate visitors. Michael believes that Matsuri will be a time of great celebration. “Matsuri is traditionally a solemn temple festival, and while we’re keeping parts of that tradition, we’re also striving to make this a contemporary event that celebrates our work and Japanese culture.”