Mini Japan in Chennai

The ground floor showcased several brands including Toshiba and Isuzu but it was the first and second floors to which Chennaiites flocked.
Photos: P Jawahar
Photos: P Jawahar

CHENNAI: If there was any proof about interests in diversifying experiences and learning more about other cultures, it was given at the Chennai Japan Expo on Saturday. Held at Firm’s Banquet Hall, the event one of many celebrating 70 years diplomatic relations between Japan and India— was packed with people exploring aspects of Japanese culture.

The ground floor showcased several brands including Toshiba and Isuzu but it was the first and second floors to which Chennaiites flocked. The second floor was a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences. Dotted with Bonsai trees and Ikebana, there were several corners allowing people to try out Japanese calligraphy or shodo and origami, showcasing traditional clothing, hosting games like separating items with chopsticks, spinning tops, kendama (ball and cup game) and much more.

Other activities like martial arts demonstrations, traditional dances and a tea ceremony were also performed throughout the day. For foodies, the event also served ramen, curry rice, red bean paste bun and more. Aditi Balaji, a local learning Japanese found her way to the expo thanks to a recommendation by her sensei. “A lot of these things I have read about or watched on YouTube, so it is cool to experience it in person. I attended the tea ceremony, which was fun. They showed us how it is made, the cleansing ritual and more. They even gave us small cookies with leaves on it (for autumn). These treats depend on the season. For spring, they serve a sweet rice ball with sakura on it. I also made a daruma doll. You paint one eye and make a wish. You fill in the other when the wish comes true,” she shared.

Of the many stalls, one belonged to Hayakawa Japanese Language School and Cultural Centre. Yuko Shimizu from the school was surprised to see the flocking of so many people at the event. “The celebrations are not usually this big but since this year is special (it being 70 years of India-Japan diplomatic relations), many Chennai language schools have come together here. I am so happy to see do many people showing interest in Japanese culture,” she exclaimed, as I rubbed shoulders with a woman dressed in traditional kimono.

Perhaps the consul-general of Japan in Chennai, Taga Masayuki, summed up the essence of the expo best when he called it “a mini showcase of Japanese culture”. “Japan and India are enjoying excellent relations on various fronts. I think it is very important to have people to people contact and understanding of each others’ culture. This showcase brings exhibitions, performances and companies to the people of Chennai. It is not necessary that everyone here has a lot of understanding about Japanese culture. But I hope they leave (having learned much more),” he shared. I am certain they did, as I weave through a line formed in front of the venue.

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The New Indian Express