Matsuri in Willougby – The Spirit of Japan in the Heart of Chatswood

Lia Mikaelian

It had been a while since I had been to a Japanese festival, but the Matsuri in Willoughby 2016 was certainly one to remember. The weather, which essentially can make or break any outdoor event, was perfect with the sky blue and the sun shining. Live performances throughout the day and the endless line up of stalls created an atmosphere which made me reminisce about similar events I had attended in Japan.


Food, a favourite of mine of course, was at the top of my list of things to explore that day. From traditional Japanese festival foods to cuisines from other countries, the smell of many different foods filled the air! The sound of all the ingredients sizzling on the hot plate and the clanking of the cooking utensils made anyone who walked past crave a bite. It was no surprise I gave in to the temptation, with me and some friends trying many different dishes. The Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) from Modern Yaki was amazing. Full of several different fillings, the flavours simply complimented each other for a taste that made me go back wanting more. What’s more, the size was certainly generous and very filling. Not only that, we went on to try the octopus balls (takoyaki) from Colo Tako, which was also far from a disappointment. Although waiting for the takoyaki to cool down was a struggle, it was definitely worth the wait. While that was all that we were able to fit into our stomachs at that moment, walking around the other food stalls still made us salivate. There was a line formed for many of the food stalls that day, with Japanese curry (kare-), Japanese croquette (korokke), shaved ice (kaki gori), stir fried noodles (yakisoba) and fried chicken (karaage) certainly everyone’s favourite! Other cuisines present included Turkish gozleme and Taiwanese Bao Dao.


Moving on from food, other stalls on the day included games to get the kids engaged, as well as items being sold in a market-like fashion. Goldfish catching (kingyo sukui) and Yoyo balloon fishing (yoyo tsuri) were among the many games where children tried their luck to win a prize. I even saw some adults having an attempt at the games, with some more successful than others. The store next door to the games was also a hit with many showing interest in testing their skills in the fine art of calligraphy. If only it was as easy as it looks. My final product when attempting calligraphy is generally not as aesthetically pleasing as I often hope and thus I didn’t have a go this year, but I am guessing I should have because as everyone knows, practice makes perfect. An interesting stall which inevitably caught the eye of every passer-by was a terrarium stall. Beautiful terrariums incorporated miniature superheroes and anime characters, making for a cute but intricate piece of art. Candy sushi was also fun and playful making it hard to eat- I wonder how long they last before they need to be eaten? Other items being sold included a nice array of bags, jewellery and clothing making for a marketplace appealing to all ages.


The biggest highlight of the day, in my opinion, was undoubtedly the live performances which took place throughout the entire day. From traditional Japanese folk dancing, kids’ cheerleading, J-pop performances, street dancing, karate demonstrations and Japanese drumming (taiko) performances, the acts were certainly diverse and engaging, with each creating a different atmosphere. The wide range of acts meant it was appealing to people of all ages. Audience members were even invited to take part in some of the acts. Some individuals even chose to cosplay or wear traditional Japanese dress (yukata) to the event, adding even more flavour to the already uplifting and lively atmosphere.


From families with little children to teenagers and the elderly, the Matsuri in Willoughby was a fun and spirit-lifting event which took place in the very heart of Chatswood. While Japanese people were certainly prominent, others of many different backgrounds attended the event, making it culturally diverse. Exposing the multicultural Australian community to the Japanese culture is certainly, in my opinion, one way to ensure the unique Japanese traditions are learnt and spread across the world. In turn, this ensures a higher level of appreciation and preservation of such traditions, which hopefully will be passed down for many generations to come.

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Photo credit: Jerry Liew

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