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Street fest vibe for Japanese pavilion

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(From left) Japanese pavilion adult ambassador Russell Kunz and youth ambassadors Niina Tsuyuki Dubik and Ciara Okumura. Kunz plays the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument.

PHOTO BY JARED STORY Enlarge Image

(From left) Japanese pavilion adult ambassador Russell Kunz and youth ambassadors Niina Tsuyuki Dubik and Ciara Okumura. Kunz plays the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. Photo Store

There’s plenty to eat at the Japanese pavilion, even if your chopsticks skills aren’t up to snuff.

The Folklorama pavilion presents Natsu Matsuri, a Japanese summer festival celebration Aug. 3 to 9 at St. Joseph’s Hall (515 College Ave.). Joy Letkemann, media relations for the Japanese pavilion, said the pavilion will have a street festival vibe, with lots of easy-to-eat finger foods to choose from.

"We of course always have sushi and this year we’re going to have the Matsuri Dog, which is a hot dog but with Japanese toppings on it," said Letkemann, 55, noting that the food will be prepared by former Edohei Restaurant owner Sadao Ohno.

"In modern-day Japan, the hot dog is often dressed up with a number of Japanese toppings and has become a very popular food at street festivals. We’re doing one with yakisoba, which is a Japanese noodle dish. There’s also one with a salad kind of thing and there’s a pickledvegetable one.

"We also have a teriyaki chicken skewer called yakitori and we have rice balls. It’s set up so you can eat and walk around."

The fusion of the hot dog with Japanese ingredients makes perfect sense considering the origins of many Japanese-Canadians.

"The interesting part about our community is because of the high rate of intermarriage, half the people in the 1,800 (the approximate Japanese population in Manitoba) who are considered Japanese are actually part-Japanese, because their parents were in a mixed marriage situation," said Art Miki, 77, president of the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba, the group that presents the Japanese pavilion.

"Of all the ethnic groups in Canada, we’re the most integrated group. As a result of the forced removal of Japanese from the west coast, we had to scatter across the country."

Miki said approximately 1,250 Japanese people were brought to Manitoba from B.C. to work on sugar beet farms during the forced relocation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. The Japanese population in Manitoba hasn’t grown much since, but Miki said being a small community has its advantages.

"Because of our unique history and how our people supported each other during the hard times, it is a close-knit community and it’s continued that way," Miki said. "When we do projects like Folklorama, even though we’re a small community we have a pretty active group of people, a lot of volunteers who come."

In addition to finger food, the Japanese pavilion will feature Japanese beer, sake and cocktails, as well as a kakigori, a shaved ice dessert. There will also be cultural displays, dance, martial arts and music by Japanese rock band Bounce, drum group Hinode Taiko and Russell Kunz, the pavilion’s adult ambassador.

Kunz plays the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. The 22-year-old, who is half Japanese and half German, has been volunteering for the Japanese pavilion since age six.

"It’s really small (the Japanese population in Manitoba) but we have such a big spirit, and that’s what I love about it. We’re a small community but we keep doing it each year," Kunz said.

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