New Orleans knows how to celebrate a wide range of cultures besides its own local traditions, and Japan is no exception. The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) hosts its annual Japan Fest each October, and it brings together Japanese residents, fans and purveyors of Japanese culture and locals who want to learn more about this exotic culture for a day. Japan Fest features a wide range of food, music, Japanese art, culture and martial arts, all set to immerse attendees in the life and culture of the Japanese and Japanese Americans.
To greet attendees, the crowd favorite Kaminari Taiko Drummers perform in the Oak Grove of the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which excites the audience and sets them up to enjoy the feel of the festival. Martial arts demonstrations are also held, which introduce the crowd to a form of both art and defense that goes back thousands of years. Other performances, including some in the theatre inside NOMA, also demonstrate various facets of Japanese culture, such as Japanese fashion shows and film screenings of Japanese anime movies.
In addition to demonstrations, there are also various exhibits inside the museum. These include an assortment of goods for both show and sale, such as clothing, candy and household items, and there is even an area where someone will write your name in Japanese on a bookmark. You can also find traditional and elaborate tea ceremonies staged with authentic tatami mats and rice paper screens in NOMA’s Great Hall. Japan Fest also features hands-on activities, such as playing Go, a traditional Japanese board game, and a craft area for children, where they can paint Japanese fans.
And what local festival would be complete without food? Local Japanese food vendors come together to serve both authentic Japanese fare and local takes on the food culture in booths set up outside NOMA. They include everyone from Ninja Restaurant, an Uptown restaurant popular for its sushi, to places like Woody’s Fish Tacos, that serves a Japanese version of its normal menu.
Japan Fest is $5 admission for all guests, and NOMA members and children 6 and under are free.