Japan Matsuri was back earlier this month in Trafalgar Square, London for the first time since the pandemic and it was as popular as ever.
This festival of Japanese culture is a free event held in the centre of London supported by the Embassy of Japan (among other organisations) and the Mayor of London. It’s filled with food stalls, live performances, art, cultural stands and Japan travel and transport booths. As you can imagine it was wildly popular and the queues for the food stalls were extremely long.
The live entertainment was extremely varied, from taiko drummers and martial artists to a concert orchestra and children’s performances. The highlight for me was The London International Concert Orchestra performing Joe Hisaishi’s ‘Merry-Go-Round of Life’ from Studio Ghibli’s ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’.
The area outside the National Gallery was lined with stalls based around travel to and within Japan, with JR (Japan Rail) having a couple of spots showcasing different regional passes alongside JAL (Japan Airlines) who were both offering fun experiences for children to take part in. JR had toy bullet train sets (including the famous Doctor Yellow train) and JAL were giving kids the chance to try on their airline uniforms.
There were also a few other tourism booths sharing useful travel information and then cultural booths like Japan House (a gallery, events space, cafe etc in the heart of London) who had a competition running to win flights to Japan. This was definitely the area to gather all of the information for your future travels.
Down in the main square either side of the stage there were stalls from a few different prefectures in Japan, including Fukushima with their amazing fruit (namely the peaches and grapes that they’re famous for) and Kumamoto with their cute mascot Kumamon featured on various pieces of merchandise.
There were also a lot of London based Japanese businesses like Doki Ltd with their gorgeous pieces of tableware, Ezen Foundation showcasing some beautiful artwork, and Minamoto Kitchoan’s stunning wagashi and other Japanese desserts. There was also a display of anime artwork and original posters from the Japanese Gallery in Kensington and furoshiki fabrics from Tamakurya.
The food was possibly the biggest draw of the event with a huge selection of Japanese street food being served up, with yakisoba, takoyaki, and karaage (fried chicken) being the most common. London restaurant Okan plated up their okonomiyaki and Japan Centre provided us with another London favourite in the form of Shoryu’s tonkotsu style ramen.
I loved that this festival was free for everyone to be able to come and enjoy and experience Japanese culture through food, music, and more importantly the people. We need more events like this!
Emma is an English teacher who travels a lot. Adventuring around the world is her passion, with Japan being one of her favourite destinations. She loves baking, photography, sweet treats, and all things Disney. If Emma was a Pokémon, she’d definitely be a Pikachu.