Year-end/New Year’s Holiday

Thank you everyone, for your participation and interest in JFF events! It has been a very exciting year for us.

Our office will be closed from December 29th through January 4th. We will also be closed again for the holiday on January 8th. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season! We’re looking forward to working with you again in the new year.

2018 Events

It has been a very eventful year for JFF – in addition to launching a new series of Japanese culture fairs, we have also been planning multiple overseas events to bring Japanese culture to a wider global audience. In particular, we are looking forward to the Japan Folk Festival in Prague, scheduled for March 3rd-4th of next year. We’re currently coordinating with a number of amazing performers, artists, and craftsmen from throughout Japan, and are also excited to be showcasing local Czech performers as part of the festival. We are also excited to announce our participation in the 2018 Sakura Days Fair in Vancouver, scheduled for mid-April.

As we prepare for our upcoming events, we’ll be taking a couple of months off from our regularly scheduled culture fair. Check back soon for upcoming dates. We look forward to hearing from you!

November 19th Culture Fair

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to our November 19th culture fair! We had a wonderful time introducing guests to kimono, flower arranging, tea ceremony, ink painting, handmade Japanese sweets, and koto.

Stay tuned for information about upcoming events!

Arigatou gozaimasu!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to our Japanese culture fair last weekend! It was wonderful to see guests from so many different countries enjoying calligraphy, shamisen music, Japanese sweets and tea, and handmade tsumami zaiku crafts.

Our next fair will be Sunday, November 19th, with a new and updated program – hope to see you there!

Handa Dashi Festival

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Handa Dashi Festival last weekend! We had an amazing time seeing the 31 floats lined up and even pulling one of them through town. The next one won’t be held for another five years, but you can see individual floats from different regions of the city at local festivals next spring.

Culture Fair Upcoming Dates

Try a variety of hands-on Japanese activities in a beautiful Meiji-era garden and teahouse!

When: Sunday, October 15th and Sunday, November 19th

What: try several hands-on Japanese cultural activities, in whatever order and for as long as you like; there is no set schedule. In October we are offering kimono (men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes available; photography in bamboo garden also possible), shamisen, tea ceremony with your own handmade Japanese sweets, calligraphy and ink painting, and a type of Japanese handicrafts called “tsumami,” introduced to you by a group of friendly teachers with experience sharing Japanese culture overseas. November’s program TBD.

How: email or call 052-413-8200 for tickets, or use the contact form at the top of the page.

Where: Nakamura Park Memorial Hall, a short subway ride from Nagoya Station (see here for details)

How much:

Advance (2 weeks or more):
Adults ¥4000, children 6-12 ¥2500 (children under 6 free)

Adults ¥5000, children ¥3000

Admission includes all materials necessary for the day’s activities, and completed crafts, art, calligraphy, and sweets can be taken home as souvenirs.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Cultural background: ikebana

Japanese artists certainly weren’t the first people in the world to use flowers and other plants for decoration ? it’s likely that the practice first reached the country along with Buddhism from India via China, where it met the local Shinto custom of offering plants to the gods. However, in its long history, it has acquired a uniquely Japanese flair, and today ikebana is perhaps one of the most visible and widely studied aspects of Japanese traditional arts. Since the second world war, it has come to be practiced as an art form, but has never lost its religious roots; during the flourishing of Higashiyama culture, it was a crucial aspect of Zen tea ceremony, decoration, and meditative practice. Its popularity led to the proliferation of a number of styles,

One of the secrets of modern flower arranging is a tool called the “kenzan,” a spiky stand that allows flowers to stand at different angles inside a container. Trimming or bending flowers before placing them in a long-necked vase, as is done in some styles of ikebana, allows artists some ability to create shapes, and historically small flower holders with open holes have also been used at the bottom of vases. The kenzan, however, developed in the Meiji era, offered the ability to create long, sideways-arching lines, or to hold long flowers upright even in shallow ceramic containers. In addition to their ceremonial and decorative use, flower arrangements during this time also began to be seen as artistic works.

Most visitors to Japan have experienced flower arrangements in some form, and some travelers and long-term residents have the opportunity to make their own through acquaintances and friends, but the overwhelming variety of styles and schools can make choosing an ikebana teacher difficult. It is also often associated with tea ceremony and kimono wearing, which can be expensive hobbies. But with so many diverse schools and styles, there are also plenty of different teachers to work with, and in recent years a worldwide interest in ikebana has led to the creation of tourist- and English-friendly classrooms and lessons. Even if you don’t study long-term, a workshop or lesson may change the way that you approach decorating and give you a new, unexpected outlet for creative expression.

Numbers limited: Hands-on Handa Dashi Festival!

On October 7th-8th, the thirty-one floats of Handa City will be pulled through town and displayed in a festival that happens only once every five years. Each region of the city maintains its own unique float, with colorful carvings, embroidery, dancing karakuri wooden dolls, and unique customs, costumes, and music. Last year, several of the floats were recognized as UNESCO world cultural heritage, and this year’s festival is expected to be the most exciting yet.

In spite of this recognition, however, the festival is still a local event at heart, with each community closely guarding its own traditions, and fierce rivalry between the different groups. In the spirit of participation and hands-on cultural exchange, JFF has arranged a rare opportunity to participate in the parade and enjoy an English language tour of the festival. Visit the local Kunizakari sake brewery, tour the historic riverside district, and, best of all, join one of the teams in pulling a traditional “dashi” float through part of the city. Numbers are limited, so please contact JFF directly to arrange a reservation at or 052-413-8200.

Date: Sunday, October 8th
Time: 11:00 AM ? 6:00 PM on location (10:00 if meeting in Nagoya)
Cost: 3000 yen/person (transportation to Handa not included)

Cultural background: koto

In the Meiji era, Japan went through a dramatic upheaval in the way it approached its traditional music, clothing, drama, government, and military style. People living in modern Japan have little awareness of how much the musical culture of the country has changed in a mere century and a half. Although the Japanese public was initially reluctant to accept foreign music as their own, governmental pressure and the introduction of European-style music to the military and education systems eventually engendered a complete transformation in Japan’s music. It also completely changed the hierarchy of traditional styles, toppling the dominant shamisen from its pedestal, and elevating the koto, as well as the gagaku style from which it came, into a new spotlight.

The koto was first brought to Japan over a thousand years ago as a member of the ancient gagaku orchestra. It appears in the Tale of Genji, and was traditionally associated with the emperor’s court, where sacred gagaku was performed, and the sophisticated women of the aristocracy. However, it didn’t truly become a popular instrument until the blind shamisen player Yatsuhashi Kengyo began to study it in the early Edo period, taught by a monk from Fukuoka whose own teacher had been inspired to use the koto as a solo accompaniment to singing. From then until the dissolution of the blind musicians’ guild, koto was propagated mainly by blind musicians, who paired it with shamisen and the bowed kokyu (replaced in most modern performances by shakuhachi), using the distinctive tunings of Edo.

Though plenty of popular music had been written for the koto, its endearing reputation as an instrument of the nobility saved its music from the greatest reforms of the Meiji Era, and from being eliminated from school curriculums. Its current beloved position was cemented by the popularity of one of the last famous performers and composers to emerge from the guild system: Miyagi Michio, whose pieces incorporated elements of European style much in the way that contemporary European composers like Debussy were experimenting with various world styles. The song Haru no Umi, in particular, written in 1929, struck a perfect balance between Japanese and European melodic styles that resonated with audiences around the world, and has come to be perhaps the most famous example of Japanese music both at home and abroad (second only to another koto melody, Sakura, Sakura.) Though written less than 100 years ago, Haru no Umi has come to represent the sound of Japanese traditional music, and many Japanese audiences are shocked to learn that it was written less than a century ago; it is the go-to background music for evoking a classic Japanese atmosphere in TV, and is ubiquitous at the New Year, the agreed upon time for Japanese to remember that they are Japanese and celebrate this fact.

Miyagi Michio also developed a bass koto, which has become an important part of contemporary koto ensembles that play new 21st-century music. Today, the koto stands as one of the best examples of Japanese instruments continuing to endure, adapt, and appeal to audiences in an ever-globalizing world.

Event info: Koto Recital in Nagoya

This weekend, enjoy a chance to experience the refined sounds of Japan’s historic soukyoku tradition. Ai Sato, a graduate of Nagoya College of Music’s traditional Japanese music program, will be performing a collection of classical works for koto, shamisen, shakuhachi, and voice. Special performances from Miho Ishigaki, Jouzan Kato, and Satoko Okubo.

Date: Saturday, September 16th
Time: 18:00-20:00
Location: The Concert Hall at Denki Bunka Kaikan, approx. 2 minutes on foot from exit 4 of Fushimi Station on the Higashiyama Line
Tickets: 3000 yen

Shiki no Kyoku (Song of the Four Seasons), by Yatsuhashi Kengyo (father of classical koto music)
Kozarashi, by Fukakusa Kengyo
Mizu no Hentai (The Phases of Water), by Miyagi Michio
Yaegoromo, by Ishikawa Koto