Sunday, March 8, 2015

Japanese Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri)... and a Spring Brunch...

Can't tell you how happy I am to start a "new" second blog year with a post on Haru Matsuri, an important Japanese festival celebrated the first weekend in March welcoming in the spring. Spring's arrival and the long-awaited end to the winter season brings forth renewal, revitalization and rejuvenation- how appropriate :). In Japan, gorgeous cherry blossoms abound marking spring's arrival and everyone anticipates their full bloom for a spectacular viewing coupled with numerous events and outdoor parties to celebrate its short stay. This year's theme at the JCCC Toronto's Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre is Samurai. Samurai were a part of Japanese society for more than 1000 years, but saw a rise in prominence around the 12th century. While the feudal system and samurai were officially abolished in the late 1800's, their impact helped shaped Japanese society. From the values of bushido (The Way of the Warrior) and martial arts to the shape of Darth Vader's helmet in pop culture, we can see that the influence of the Samurai is still felt today.

Entering the centre, we were greeted with a show stopping colourful and elaborately decorated display of Hina Matsuri Dolls celebrating girls day that just passed on March 3rd.

Other than obvious beauty, the Japanese significance of attaching objects on a rope shows that it is sacred, such as the ritual of tying folded paper wishes on a twine and the heavy rope worn by the highest ranked yokozuna (sumo).

This 93-year young Japanese man approached us with some wooden toys he made that he used to play from childhood. He tells us of his village "grandpa" who would make these very toys for the children to play. Now that he is retired he wants to pay it forward and continue to pass it to the next generation in hopes that they will remember him and do that for the next. To date he has made 2500 wooden toys that he gives to children for free. What a remarkable man and story!

My Japanese sis-in-law and our boys trying out the wooden top spinner.

Dear to the hearts of the Japanese people, the traditional Daruma doll reflects their determined spirit and peaceful outlook on life. Daruma is closely associated with the beloved Japanese proverb as well as my personal favourite motto, Nana korobi yaoki, which states, “Fall down seven times, get up eight”. The Daruma doll's unique rounded shape allows it to return to its original position even if knocked over, representing such persistence.

Make your wish to Daruma by drawing in its right eye upon setting your goal- it’ll remind you to finish the goal, then draw in the other upon fulfilling it. Referring to "opening" the second eye, it expresses the realization of a goal. The doll eyebrows are in the shape of a crane, while the cheek hair resembles the shell of the tortoise symbolizing longevity. And overall red for good luck! 

Daruma reminds us all to NEVER GIVE UP on our dreams!

Taiko Japanese drumming is a traditional entertainment to bring an uplifting happy spirit to special occasions.

Vendors selling a wide variety of Japanese goods from cute dolls, to origami and cookbooks to beautiful jewellery and elegant kimonos. 

Japanese arts and crafts demonstrations were being exhibited such as Ikebana (flower arranging), Bunka Shishu (embroidery), Sumi-e (brush painting), and Cha-no-yu (Tea Ceremony). All these art forms and more are offered as courses at the centre.

The tea ceremony (Cha-do) is the ritualized preparation and serving of powdered green tea in the presence of guests. It is designed to bring aesthetic, intellectual and physical enjoyment, and peace of mind to those in attendance which was influenced by Zen Buddhist masters of the 14th and 15th centuries. For more on cha-do and matcha tea see post.

The Toronto Japanese Film Festival is held each June at the JCCC, and has become one of the largest festivals dedicated entirely to Japanese film. Monthly screenings and the film festival provides a unique and rare opportunity for Canadians to experience the cinema that are loved by Japanese- with English subtitles.

A meticulous Diorama (scaled-down model) of Osaka's village life in early times.

Warrior ware from the ancient past...

JCCC offers a variety of Martial Arts forms classes including Aikido, Judo, Karate, Iaido, Naginata, Kyudo, Shorinji Kempo and Kendo.

"The Way of the Sword," Kendo, is the Japanese art of fencing based on the techniques of the two-handed sword of the samurai. 

Our next generation of warriors...

And what better way to welcome Spring's arrival than with an elegant beautiful touch of a Japanese brunch. Sharing with you recipes from my 2008 Asian Gourmet Magazine's spring article of reviving your senses by bringing the fresh ingredients of spring into your kitchen and reconnecting with family and friends over a casual brunch affair worthy of a celebration in Japan.

 Penned as Susan Vuong. Asian Gourmet Magazine Spring 2008 pp.63 to 69.

Now I am really geared up for spring, especially after learning the temperatures in Toronto are starting to look up!

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