Monday, 10 March 2014

GO EAST: Japanese culture, resplendent and riveting, nabs the Kingston spotlight

PATTERN PLAY: Samples from an origami demonstration, among the offerings at Saturday's festival.

Though Jamaica and Japan share more than half-a-century of diplomatic relations, not enough locals possess a deep understanding (let alone appreciation) of the Asian country's endlessly fascinating way of life and its colourful people, who've long made no secret of their abiding fondness for all things Jamaican, from our rich musical heritage (reggae and dancehall especially) to our food and mode of dress.

That's precisely why the Embassy of Japan in Jamaica put on the day-long Japan Festival in Kingston on Saturday to school patrons on aspects of their incredibly diverse culture, as both countries mark 50 years of a fruitful international affair.

The Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre was buzzing with activity (from 4-10 pm), with vibrant sights and sounds. Tents and booth displays, regularly jam-packed, offered everything from calligraphy (handwriting sessions) and origami demonstrations by Japanese nationals to one-on-one moments with representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) who were on hand to provide details on opportunities via the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers Dispatch Programme (JOCVP) and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) through which one can earn English-teaching jobs. Visit for more information.

In the VIP pavilion, such culinary delicacies as sushi and sake attracted long lines and such famous faces as Education minister Ronald Thwaites, Delano Franklyn, Tommy Cowan and Carlene Davis, among others. Adding to the event's thriling diversity: an automobile show, featuring a super-fine assortment of flashy whips, and live musical performances by, you guessed it, a lineup of Jamaican and Japanese acts. And to top it all off, a crowd-pleasing spectacle of a fashion show full of innovative couture and eye-popping colour.

Equal parts informative and entertaining, the Japan Festival provided the stark reminder that when it comes to mounting cultural showcases, the Japanese, very much like us Jamaicans, are certified world leaders. 

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