From Karate to Manga

Spokane celebrates Japanese culture in annual event with dancing, food and ceremonies

by Meghan Dellinger

Japan Week has been an annual recurrence in Spokane for more than 20 years with martial arts demonstrations, movie showings, “cosplay” costume contests and, of course, lots of food.

Starting Saturday, April 20, Japan Week will include various Japanese cultural activities. Events occur all around Spokane throughout the week and end on Sunday, April 28, with a Japanese Garden Festival, a service at a Buddhist temple, an open house for kimono viewing, and a showing of “Seven Samurai” at the Magic Lantern Theatre.

Doug Heyamoto, who has helped with Japan Week events for about 15 years, said he attends as many activities as possible.

“Probably my favorite is the opening ceremony. There’s just a lot of energy at the opening ceremonies; it’s a great way to kick off [Japan Week],” Heyamoto said. “I love the food too. There are a lot of different things that go on that display the traditions of Japanese life.”

The opening ceremony this year will be held in River Park Square at noon. Events include Japanese drumming, singing and dancing by students from the Mukogawa Institute and martial arts demonstrations. VIPs such as the mayor of Spokane and the mayor of Spokane Valley often make an appearance.

Gene Nelson has been on the Japan Week committee for about 10 years, specifically helping with many of the martial arts demonstrations such as Karate and Judo. However, he said he enjoys all of the events throughout the week.

“This is an exposition on Japanese cultural norms, to allow Spokane access to various Japanese cultures,” Nelson said. “I enjoy all the many different aspects.”

Some of the most frequently offered activities during Japan Week are the different movie showings at the Magic Lantern Theatre, where a total of 10 movies will be shown.

Jonathan Abramson, the manager and co-owner of the Magic Lantern Theatre, said the movies chosen for Japan Week all had a few things in common.

“They’re pretty well-known Japanese films that show the culture well,” he said. “People will get to see some of the most famous Japanese films, and some really good contemporary films.”

Another big event is the “Day of Remembrance,” held Monday, April 22. The event commemorates the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese people during World War II, with speeches given by people who were part of the incarceration as well as veterans.

Heyamoto helps quite a bit with the “Day of Remembrance,” especially since his uncle will be one of the speakers this year. He said many organizations collaborate on this event, including Washington State University, which has a large collection of 2,000 to 3,000 images of one person’s experience in the internment camps.

“[The ‘Day of Remembrance’] cements that part of time when many Japanese-Americans in the Northwest region were interned in the war,” Heyamoto said.

Nelson said he encourages Whitworth students to not only come be a part of the events, but to help put Japan Week together next year.

“The Japan Week Committee is a volunteer operation,” he said. “We’re always looking for people interested in being involved.” Those interested in volunteering can e-mail russ@spokanekendo.com.

Event Highlights

Opening Celebration
Saturday, April 20 from noon to 2 p.m. at River Park Square
Japanese drumming, singing, dancing and martial arts demonstrations.

Day of Remembrance
Monday, April 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College (3410 W. Ft. George Wright Dr.)
Pay tribute to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were put in internment camps during World War II.

KuroNekoCon Cosplay Fashion Show and Dance
Friday, April 26 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Spokane Falls Community College
Costume contest and dancing. Cost is $5.

Lesson in Manga
Saturday, April 27 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the North Spokane Library (just east of Division and Hawthorne)
Local artists teach Japanese comic art.

“Seven Samurai”
Sunday, April 28 from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at Magic Lantern Theatre 
A Japanese adventure drama about the Warring States Period of Japan. Cost is $5.
See a full schedule of events here.

Contact Meghan Dellinger at mdellinger15@my.whitworth.edu

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