Experience the Japanese culture at Kissimmee Lakefront Park festival Sunday

One of the many displays at the Orlando Japan Festival today will be Taiko Drumming.

Kissimmee’s Lakefront Park will be filled with Japanese culture Sunday, Nov. 17.

The Orlando Japan Festival will be from  11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with fun for the whole family. For 19 years, the Japan Association of Orlando has held this event in the hopes to teach the locals about Japan.

“It’s important to share our culture and understand each other,” said Japan Association Secretary Mayuko Ishikura. “It’s a great opportunity to gather everyone together, but not just the Japanese community. It’s a chance to meet new people and have fun.”

Ishikura said she is expecting 5,000 to 6,000 visitors on Sunday. Every year it gets bigger, she said. Admission and parking is free. The festival has grown to be one of the largest Asian cultural events in the area.

There will be many performances and demonstrations throughout the day from dancers to traditional Japanese drummers and martial arts. Chiaki Yasukawa, principal guest artist of United Ballet Theatre in Orlando, will be performing a unique ballet/contemporary piece alongside Taiko drummers.

“It’s a little taste of my culture,” Yasukawa said. “It shows the city’s diversity. It’s great to have that culture in Central Florida.”

She studied ballet in Japan, Monaco, the New York School of American Ballet and Joffrey Ballet School. She said she loves the feeling of being on stage and performing.

“I want the audience to feel how I’m feeling (while I am dancing),” Yasukawa said. “I want them to have memories and think how great it was.”

Another special performance will be from Marco Lienhard. He plays several “wagakki,” or Japanese instruments including Taiko (Japanese drum), Shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute), Shinobue (Japanese flute), Nohkan (Noh theatre flute). Lienhard leads the professional Taiko group, Taikoza. The group travels to perform many cities in America as well as over

the world.

The festival will have 52 booths, Japanese games for children, calligraphy, arts and crafts, Japanese Anamae and a costume contest. And be sure to come hungry as several local restaurants will be serving up Japanese dishes. Some local restaurants at the festival include Sushi Tomi, Jimotti’s Restaurant and Don Don.

Ishikura says there will also be raffle drawings and the grand prize is a trip to Japan. Tickets will be $3 for one, $5 for two and $10 for five tickets.

The Japan Association of Orlando, a local non-profit, hosts the festival and collects donations throughout the year for the Japanese Public School, as well as local organizations and individuals to help them with their endeavors to support local Japanese visual and performing arts, culture and education.

In the past, festival proceeds also benefited those affected by the tsunami.