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Matsuri 2019: Making the Most of This Year's Festival

September 4, 2019

Matsuri at the Japan House is always an exciting time for our community. The festival is nothing short of immersive and engaging, as well as educational. With some new updates, returning favorites, and an ever-growing effort to expose the community to Asian culture, let’s take a look at what to expect from this year’s Matsuri Festival at the Japan House.


Matsuri is in its fifth year at the Japan House and focuses on all aspects of Asian culture. In past years, while Asian influences of all sorts have been present, the focus has been centered on Japanese culture. This year, the festival is moving to a more Asia-inclusive experience, adopting aspects of Thai, Indian, and Pilipino arts, food, and performances. By including these experiences and cultures in the Matsuri festivities, the festival is able to serve those communities locally, as well as expand the scope under which Asian culture is celebrated during this event. With the help of RSO’s at the University of Illinois and local organizations, a broader scope for this year’s festival make the activities, performances, and experiences better than ever.


If you’ve been to Matsuri before, you’ll find new and old favorites all over and around the Japan House and Arboretum. Five new craft vendors will be present at the festival, including Quirky Quiltress, who is planning on demonstrating shibori – a method of manually resist dying fabrics to create incredible color patterns and shades. Another fun addition to the lineup is Taekyeom Lee, who works wonders with materials to create 3D ceramics and printed objects with equal parts design and artistry. Additionally, an emphasis on family friendly activities has pushed the start time of the event to 12 noon. The early hours of the festival are open to everyone, but families are encouraged to come near start time and enjoy the children’s demonstrations of things like ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) and Joyful Bubbles, an area favorite at community events. Favorite performers like the 5, 6, 7, 8s return to play their iconic style of Japanese punk rock, and the event-ending fireworks at 8:30pm are always the perfect way to cap off the event.


Flavors and dishes of all sorts are served at Matsuri. As fits, Asian offerings from such businesses as Sakanaya, Green Onion Grocery, Aroma Indian Restaurant, and the Hunger Force Mobile Kitchen make for a great opportunity to try new things you haven’t tasted before. A number of local food trucks are also available for those looking for their local go-to. The Japan House Matcha Café is also going to be located in the same area as all food and drink this year, to make sure everyone can find the flavors they love. Triptych Brewing is also returning with a Matsuri-exclusive brew called Goen, a Yuzu Zest Lager. Maverick Wines is also serving sake and Matsuri-inspired cocktails to allow you to celebrate the event in style. Great news: the event is now open carry! Much like Friday Night Live, you can take your drink anywhere within the festival grounds, to allow a seamless experience of all Matsuri has to offer.


Getting excited? So are we! Japan House encourages everyone who would like to dress the part to put on their favorite Japanese, Indian, and Asian wear for the event. Likewise, cosplaying is a big part of Matsuri, so wear the costume of your favorite manga or anime character to embrace the day’s celebration of Asian culture. If you want to grab a Matsuri 2019 shirt, you can do so at the festival, however, you can be even more prepared for the event by purchasing a prepackage. Pickup for the prepackages, which include tickets and a shirt, take place the week before the event, so check times by calling the Japan House at 217-244-9934. If you purchase a prepackage and can’t make a pickup time, grab your things at the Will Call on the day of the festival. Nothing beats showing up at the festival, ticket in hand, shirt already styled and worn, ready to take in everything the day has to offer.


Matsuri 2019 is a big event, meaning street closures around the Japan House and Arboretum. For that reason, Lincoln Road is closed off from St. Mary’s Road to Hazelwood Drive. The nearest MTD stop is the St. Mary’s/Lincoln stop, just a 2-3-minute walk from the festival. For other areas of free parking for the event, check out the full parking and transportation guide for Matsuri on the Japan House Website.

For more information on Matsuri 2019, check out the Japan House site, with information on the festival’s schedule, performances, and food and drink lists.

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