Celebrate spring and Japan at Santa Rosa’s Matsuri Japanese Arts Festival

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

If you go

Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival

What: An afternoon of art, crafts, performances, food and more

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 19

Where: Juilliard Park, 227 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa

Cost: Free

Details: www.sonomamatsuri.com

––––––

Pre-concert: An Evening of Music for the Shakuhachi

What: Grand Master Riley Koho Lee and Master Elliot Kanshin Kallen

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Church of One Tree, 492 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa

Cost: $15 advance, $20 at the door.

For tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2HamUS6.

At the height of spring in Japan, the pale pink sakura are in full bloom, and a faint scent of blossoms whirls through the air.

Japanese celebrate these cherry blossoms each spring through hanami, a tradition where families fill parks to view the flowers and picnic under blooming trees. Food stalls often pop up, selling things like takoyaki (fried octopus balls).

The flower viewing festival is uniquely Japanese, but as spring reaches its height in Santa Rosa, the city has its own festival that celebrates all things Japan.

Now in its 10th year, the Matsuri Japanese Arts Festival will be held from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 19 at Juilliard Park.

For the first time at the free festival, a Shinto priest will perform a traditional opening ceremony.

“This kind of stuff is done quite frequently all over Japan, mostly in the rural towns, so that’s key,” said Henry Kaku, president of the festival’s board. “All of our shows on the stage are really true to the Japanese culture, like something you might see in a village in Japan.”

The festival got its start when Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe, inspired by his love for all things Japan, invited friends to his A Street neighborhood studio to share in an array of Japanese art — something they’re still passionate about sharing with the community a decade later.

“Uribe approached Sonoma County Taiko when he was forming the idea of the festival, so we have been part of Matsuri since the first festival that was held in Art Alley in front of Mario’s studio,” said Arn Shimizu, a founding member and artistic director emeritus with Sonoma County Taiko.

Kaku, a martial arts instructor and one of the fathers of Sonoma County Taiko, also has been with the group since that first event, where he shared his origami.

Kaku said the artists continued to meet at Uribe’s studio until 2011, when a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan. Santa Rosa residents wanted to help, so they reached out to the Matsuri Festival group. Kaku officially turned the group into a nonprofit, and all of the money raised that year — more than $20,000 — went to disaster relief.

“After that we realized if it’s going to be this big, we’re going to need a different area,” Kaku said.

The group moved the event to Juilliard Park — big enough for plenty of people to enjoy the festival, but still close to where it got its start, just around the corner.

“Three years later, there was another disaster in Japan, and we were the vehicle for raising over $10,000 for relief,” Kaku said.

The festival has grown over the decade. This year’s lineup features an array of performances and demonstrations, including music, dance, martial arts, tea ceremonies and a mochi pounding demonstration.

A big part of the performance list each year is taiko, the energetic percussion performance that is a “ubiquitous part of Japanese culture, used for spiritual observances, and rituals, in celebration, and war, as well as for communication,” Shimizu said.

“The thunderous sound of the taiko when played in unison is an aural, physical and visual experience,” Shimizu said. “More recently, taiko has become a form of entertainment that draws upon the historical uses, as well as innovating new ways of utilizing this ancient instrument.”

If you go

Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival

What: An afternoon of art, crafts, performances, food and more

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 19

Where: Juilliard Park, 227 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa

Cost: Free

Details: www.sonomamatsuri.com

––––––

Pre-concert: An Evening of Music for the Shakuhachi

What: Grand Master Riley Koho Lee and Master Elliot Kanshin Kallen

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Church of One Tree, 492 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa

Cost: $15 advance, $20 at the door.

For tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2HamUS6.

As part of the festival, Elliot Kanshin Kallen, a festival board member, will perform with the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, at the Seishin Studio on A Street. Kallen, who was recently given the title of Shihan, or master teacher, also will perform a special pre-festival concert with grand master Riley Koho Lee, another highly acclaimed shakuhachi player, on Saturday at the nearby Church of One Tree.

A variety of festival booths will show off local wares, including plants and pottery. Also, for the first time this year, there will be a language booth, where attendees can talk with a Japanese linguist.

Food vendors include Kado’s Asian Grill and Ramen Gaijin, which will be serving katsu sandwiches. Two local former chefs of Japanese restaurants also will set up a booth.

“This year we have about seven different food vendors, so I’m hoping people will get the chance to try a variety of Japanese food,” Kaku said. “My Judo club is also putting together Spam musubi and maki sushi.”

The organizers want to continue being a resource for Sonoma County residents who are curious or passionate about Japanese culture, and diversity as a whole.

“The festival helps to showcase one facet of our wonderfully diverse community and serves as a way that we can share, appreciate and connect with each other,” Shimizu said. “The more we know and appreciate about each other, the better off we all are.”

Show Comment

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine