What’s Next after Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society’s 18th Annual Autumn Fair?

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The Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (VNCS) is active year-round, and in October, their annual fair from last weekend brings the community together — and the curious to learn about the elements of what makes traditional Japan cool. Now in its 18th year, their success lies in how they enrich and entertain the public who do not know much about the Land of the Rising Sun.

For spoiled folks like me who desire more of an academic edge, I’m craving the experience from the University of Victoria’s Pacific and Asian Studies CAPI Conference on Japanese Popular Culture. Two events were held on campus back in the late 90’s and they set the bar. Plus, I visited Japan and experienced the life on the streets that some festivals from afar have no plans to replicate. To sample the unique food from stalls at either a theme park like Fuji-Q Highland Park or at a seasonal event requires travelling back there.

VNCS’ version is quaint. It is worth going to at least once. I’ve been to this event years ago and saw no reason to come back in any regular basis. After James Shaw told me about 2016’s event perhaps offering Ikayaki (squid on a stick), I took a chance at returning. Was he wrong about what he heard? Most likely. This mouth-watering reason was the only reason I trekked out to the Municipality of Esquimalt.

I hope the 20th Anniversary will be amped up in a huge way where I can become an accolade like my buddy. I appreciate what this group does but this event has nothing for me to truly adore. For now, the local populace can witness tea ceremonies, watch demonstrations of various martial arts styles, see how to get started with bonsai gardening or listen to traditional music. I was pleased to hear a choir sing a track from an upcoming anime, Mary and the Witch’s FlowerTo close off the day, those who stayed could hear the beats from the Taiko Drummers up close. This event’s version of a garage sale was not entirely huge. I had the money with me to buy an obi for my yakata, but there was nothing to be found.

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This event is only as good as those who put forth the time to make great and the companies who decided to have a display here. A chat with a representative revealed they have the resources to host any type of event but the people power and money to make a particular idea happen will vary. I know from past experience where when not enough folks are willing to participate, some types of meetings will always feel small.

The amount of people I’ve seen drift in and out indicate this event is very popular. Some of the food is great, and I appreciated having still warm nigiri (rice ball) stuffed with cooked salmon and plum. Everything else was more on the miss side. I did not find enough raw fish type offerings in their sushi. I was also craving takoyaki. If a food court in Richmond, BC can prepare this dish on a to order basis, why can’t a festival? When the octopus is gone, it’s gone. I can easily make my own version of a “YYJ hot dog” at home; I’d rather have the sausage soaked in miso or soy for hours, and cooked over a proper grill. If only Japadog from Vancouver was here….

Also, I have to wonder why a franchise operation, Bento Sushi, was being plugged. I’ve tried them in the past and was not impressed. When commercialization enters a community run show such as this, I really have to wonder.

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Fine tuning is always required after an event. The committee will meet to discuss the aspects that either worked or failed. I know I need to have the patience of Buddha for this show to become even better. It has the potential to be big, and it eventually will have to occupy a larger venue. Finding parking nearby was painless. When folks had their fill of what they wanted to do, they left.

James wanted to stay for the entire day. He thought he can be here for the entire run and expressed his thoughts on otakunoculture.com, whereas I knew I would get bored after an hour. He realized I was right and conceded. We both ventured to town afterwards. If former University of Victoria professor Tim Craig was invited to speak at this event, I would have stayed to talk to him about his latest book, titled Cool Japan. I read it the night before and learned more about other aspects of modern culture and learned a bit of history about their past. One chapter included a look at sumo wrestling, a topic I know my buddy is big on!

I can not wait for this show to be like Esquimalt’s Ribfest, where folks travel from afar make a day of feasting and listening to great music! I’m sure my buddy will love to see a J-pop group such as Puffy (of Teen Titans, known Ami Yumi) perform at the adjoining Bullen Park. In fact, he can hop on stage and sing along! I can see him do it too. With so many members of this club working in different industries, I’m sure something can be arranged, and I’ll be ready with my camera to capture the moment.

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