Japan comes to Manchester for Doki Doki Festival 2017

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By Pruthvi Khilosia
Photography: Pruthvi Khilosia

Over 400 people attended Doki Doki – The Manchester Japanese Festival held on Saturday in Sudgen Sports Centre.

Professional chefs and artists from around England and overseas celebrated both traditional and modern Japanese culture. Proceeds were donated to the supported charity, Aid for Japan, which provides long-term support for orphans of the 2011 Tohoku disaster.

Film screenings, fashion show, food stalls, folk music and martial arts as well as performances from anime enthusiasts and more kept visitors busy throughout the day.

Terry He, 18, an electrical engineering student at Manchester Met first came to the festival four years ago. He said, “I came here once and fell in love with it. I think I’m what they call an otaku, someone who is obsessed (with Japanese culture). If you’re a fan of Japanese culture specifically, Doki Doki is the one to go to.”

The range from traditional to modern Japanese culture and even cultures home to Manchester, brought together people of all ages and backgrounds. A way to carry on tradition in today’s fast moving world is consistency.

Akemi Solloway, 59 from London, founded Aid For Japan and performs a 15th century style tea ceremony. She said “It’s still now a very economically and elegant movement and we should continue the tradition.”

Solloway answered questions at the Traditional Japanese Culture panel as well as host a talk on Bushido: The Samurai Way of Life and demonstrated Japanese calligraphy.

Solloway said, “Its very important to me because our ancestors created this culture and to show respect we keep the tradition.” Similarities in cultures is also an important method for others to relate to one another. She added, “England has a history. England has a queen, we have an emperor. You live on an island, we live on an island. Manchester is doing very well in multi culture”.

Kimono Stylist Elizabeth Hitchins dressed visitors in a traditional Furisode; an ornate, silk  garment. Thunderdrummers, a community-based band from Cumbria performed taiko, a traditional Japanese drumming. Though they played for fun, fitness and creativity they enjoyed teaching visitors who wanted to join in.

SOAS Min’yo are a Japanese folk group of singers, shamisen and shakuhachi players, percussionists and dancers who formed in 2012. An ensemble on hand played instruments, singers dressed in kimonos and a synchronised performance was a first class treat for all to see.

A range of films included The Garden of Words (Shinkai, 2014), A Letter to Momo (Kazuo, 2011) and Memories of Matsuko (Nakashima, 2006); a mix of anime and live-action. Art allows people to be free with their interpretations and many found it easy to fall in love with Japan through entertaining interactivity and visuals. Raging martial arts to peaceful origami, this festival was booming with ongoing vibrancy.

Guy Sinclair, 15, who has taken interest in the weapon-based martial art of kobudo by Bukido Kobudo Dojo said, “You get to know the history of the techniques because all these techniques have come from someone who has decided to do a movement that has evolved over time to get an advantage. You get to know the country’s roots and the fact that we all were once at somewhere to start with. We all had to fight to get to the century we are at now so all these martial arts remind us of why we are here today.”

Manchester is renowned for it’s diverse vibrancy and it’s opportunity for many, especially students to indulge in a host of cultures. From food to making friends, the Doki Doki festival had something for everyone.

Sonia Leong, 35, a full time manga artist, who has worked for Titan Comics, Channel 4 and overseas for Toyota said, “Japan has always been fascinating for people because its very different to the UK. I’ve been evolved in going to comic-cons and anime stuff since 2001 and I’ve seen entire generations getting into this kind of stuff. Everybody knows about comics so it’s more acceptable, so that’s why people are getting more into it.”

Takayasu Takemoto, 53, was working at the stall Sushi Craft. He revealed how he maintains culture through his business, commenting: “I’m not interested in a restaurant because I want many people as possible to try Japanese food. I travel to customer venues and events. If you have a restaurant you are only covering people maybe in a ten mile radius. Food is a cultural element and I think food has a fundamental that should be maintained but if you don’t like the taste, you can change it a bit so as long as you don’t change it too far, the culture is carries on.”

In the evening following the main festival, a cosplay after-party co-hosted by the Manchester University Japanimation Society (MUJS), with DJs playing J-pop, rock, dance, anime and video game themes was held, ending with the community coming together.

For more information about The Manchester Japanese Festival, visit the festival website.

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