THE FIRST EDITION OF THE CULTURAL FESTIVAL OF JAPAN: ALL A SUCCESS
On April 25, 2009 was held at the Sports Pavilion of “La Casilla” the first Japanese Cultural Festival in the Basque Country. It was the first time that a cultural activity of this nature is organized in the Basque Country. The main idea that the organizers (the Basque-Japanese Society / Nihon Basuku Yukoukai - 日本 バスク 友好 会 - and the Basque Association of Oriental Studies / Euskal Ikerketarako Ekialdearen Elkartea -EuskadiAsia-) pretended to develop was to fill the cultural gap existing in order to organize this kind of cultural events in Basque Country and, at the same time, strengthen cultural relations between Japan and the Basque Country. For this reason, this first Festival offered a panoramic and informative horizon of prototypical manifestations of Japanese culture with the intention of starting to become, gradually, in one of the most important references of Japanese culture in the Spanish state.
In light of the results, we can conclude that the event met with extraordinary success all expectations, insofar as more than 4.000 visitors attended the Sports Pavilion of La Casilla during that Day dedicated to Japanese culture.
The first indicator of what would happen were the long lines of hundreds of people who, in the moments before the opening of doors, were waiting at the outside of the enclosure. As people accessed the interior, the organization distributed to all the audience a program with comprehensive information about the activities that were taking place during the day and a welcome message from the Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Japan in Spain Mr. D. Naoki Yokobayashi.
The organization decided to charge a symbolic admission (three Euros for the general public and free admission for children under three years) in order to comply fully with safety standards established by the Basque Government with regard to the maximum capacity and to establish a control of overall assistance to the event throughout the day.
As people were accommodated progressively in the lateral stands of the showground, they enjoyed, with high respect and admiration, the martial arts demonstrations (Iai-dō 居 合 道, Karate 空手道, Aikido 合 気 道, and Japanese traditional dance 踊り) which took place without interruption well into noon.
The silence that seized the atmosphere was only broken by the sound of multiple flashes of the cameras, with which the participants tried to register for posterity each exhibition. Since the resplendent simplicity of the movements performed by the Master Seigo Takagi, through the spectacular and powerful kata directed by Osamu Aoki Master Teacher and Ignacio Sanchez, and ending with the sensual steps of Natsumi Omura.
Once the martial arts’ session finished, the audience had the opportunity to get to the court of the Pavilion, where some associations of the Festival had organized many exhibitions (盆栽 Bonsai, Origami 折り紙, Go 碁, Japanese Armor, Manga, Lolita aesthetic demonstration, Ikebana exhibition-生け花-,...), but also workshops of the most diverse activities related to Japanese culture (for example, tea ceremony, Go 碁, Japanese calligraphy-shodō, 书 道 - papercraft and manga drawing, etc), and, of course, many booths and stalls in which it was possible to buy a large number of Japanese products, books, comics and receive information about trip offers to Japan. Paying attention to the many children who visited the Festival, were conducted several sessions of Kamishibai 纸 芝 居 or storytelling in charge of the Gaito kamishibaiya Agurtzane Macias.
The party had a widely institutional representation of both the municipal and supra-municipal Basque institutions as well as the Japanese embassy of Japan that, from the beginning, were provided to collaborate with the Festival.
Thus, the inaugural ceremony of the festival was opened with welcoming speeches from the following institutional representatives:
- First Secretary and Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of Japan in Spain, Mr. Naoki Yokobayashi.
- Health and Consumption councilor of Bilbao City Council, Mr. Sabin Anuzita and Social Action Councilor of Bilbao City Council, Mr. Ricardo Barkala.
- Director of Foreign Affairs of Basque Government, Mr. Josu Legarreta.
- President of the Basque-Japanese Society, Mr. Yuichi Shimanuki.
- At midday the Mayor of Bilbao City, Mr. Iñaki Azkuna, was in attendance at the Festival.
One of the most special charms of the Festival was the space devoted to Japanese cuisine, where the renowned chef of Sushi Fumio Hatanaka made an extraordinary demonstration on how to elaborate sushi 寿司. The huge interest among the audience resulted in the formation of large queues in order to acquire this food rations.
At 16:00 h the activities were started again with a lecture in Basque language by Japanese professor Mr. Sho Hagio entitled “Euskal-japoniar harreman historikoei begirada bat”, focusing on the historical relations between Japan and Basque Country. The lecture, given by Professor Sho Hagio, Eusko Ikaskuntza / Basque Studies Society member was presented by the Director of International Relations of the Basque Government, Mr. Mikel Burzako.
Subsequently, activities began with a Iai-dō demonstration by the Sensei Seigo Takagi, with a Bujinkan demonstration by Master Isidoro Perez and with a very special demonstration of Bioenergy by the Master Osamu Aoki who managed to make the whole audience participate in the execution of exercises to channel the chi energy.
It was the right moment to visit again the different booths and stalls and take part in workshops and raffles that were announced on the Cultural Festival. As extraordinary climax to what had happened, organizers proceeded to complete the 2009 Japanese Cultural Festival with a Kamishibai performed by Agurtzane Macías around bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Japanese Cultural festival had a significant effect on the media and informative sites of various institutions related to Japanese culture, both in the Spanish state and internationally. Moreover, the celebration of the event had a great impact on various mass media (press, radio, television) and on the Internet. The exceptional receptiveness of the public of the Basque Country and surrounding areas encourages us to consolidate this event during subsequent years.
Finally, we would like to thank all volunteers who, in so altruistic way, decisively contributed to this Cultural Festival came to fruition. We extend our appreciation to all partners and other agencies that helped in its organization and development.
Carlos Sierra, Coordinador General