The international parade for the Hyack Festival was in full swing in New Westminster! On Saturday, May 28, the parade day was slightly overcast and perfect for the 3km parade. The team marched in harmony with their “Omotenashi Spirit” (Japanese hospitality spirits) to the delight of the visitors.
One of the Japan-Canada Chamber of Commerce (JC-COC) board members, Karen Baker Mc-
Grotty, was the inspiration for this parade.The parade was also meant to prepare for the 60th anniversary of the sister city affiliation between New Westminster and Moriguchi, Osaka, next year.
JC-COC, a super-connector between Canada and Japan through business, education, culture, and tourism, led the parade team JAPAN, with the Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society (President Kenji Seino), the junior team of Tetsu Taiko (Founder Doug Masuhara), the GO Taiko (a youth group), a total of nearly one hundred people in the parade.
In addition, a JC-COC director Junichi Tajiri performed Bushido to the audience in Hakama. SELC language school students also participated, including Middle Eastern and South American students. The multicultural and multigenerational team celebrated a diverse and inclusive team spirit.
Led by the JC‐COC flag bearers, Sammy Takahashi, President of the Japanese Canadian Chamber of Commerce, drove a Nissan Figaro convertible and shared Japan’s proud auto industry spirit with the visitors. Board member Mari, with a megaphone in her hand, encouraged the marching team and sang O Canada respectfully and energetically with the team.
In about three years, this was the first time for the Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society to carry a Mikoshi, a portable shrine. The mikoshi was a gift from Wakayama City in Japan over 20 years ago and had been kept at the Vancouver Japanese Language School without being carried by anyone. However, it has been undergoing repair work since the fall of 2019 with the Sakurakai Society to make it worthwhile for local events and Japanese culture.
For this parade, Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society President Kenji Seino, Hayato Ogawa (CEO Ogawa Landscape Design) and Taro Kogure (CEO Ko-Bo Enterprise Inc.) prepared the Mikoshi carefully day after day. The “Hana-mikoshi” was beautifully decorated and participants wore yukata (summer kimono) and cherry-coloured Hanten (traditional festival clothing). And smiling faces enlivened the spectators along the route, and the mikoshi became the inspiring symbol of the Japanese team in the international parade.
President Kiyono said joyfully: ”The mikoshi was unveiled on a grand stage and once again saw the light of day, bringing smiles to many people’s faces and making them happy”.
Testu Taiko Society, founded as the Steveston TempleTaiko group, was the first taiko group organized in Richmond, BC. Its affiliate Go Taiko was the second youth taiko group established in the Vancouver area. The group began with a desire to pass on to future generations the fundamentals of the “Kokoro ” as it pertains to traditional Japanese culture. They are grateful to their ancestors and their activities are based on the hope that they can pass on this appreciative feeling to the next generation.
Doug, one of the founders of Tetsu Taiko, said “It was wonderful to see many people waving, applauding, and moving to the beats of our taiko drum. It must have been amazing to see the mikoshi, the portable shrines, being carried up and down, and the taiko drumming in New Westminster, the state’s former capital. But I was impressed by how everyone was smiling, cheering, clapping their hands, and welcoming us”.
One of the adult drummers said, “The parade reflected Canadian acceptance and multiculturalism, with all parade participants and spectators celebrating as one. As a first-timer, an adult drummer, Man Wai, said ” I needed to maintain a solid foothold to keep well balanced on the moving truck. It was a challenge but fun. Gradually, I soaked in the music world and struck the drum with all my strength. Finally, when the parade team entered Queen’s park, our team leader Doug held up two thumbs to the team. We responded with a huge roar and embraced each other, it was so amazing and full of joy”.
The parade activities have strengthened the ties within the Nikkei community, as well as with Canadian society and Japan. At the same time, there are concerns that the community is growing apart these days due to the aging population, declining birth rate, and changing forms of Nikkei immigration. “We hope to continue to engage in cultural exchange activities that are fun and engaging for everyone,” said Casey Wakabayashi, Vice President of JC-COC, who expressed his enthusiasm for future Japan-Canada exchange activities.
◇Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society
◇Tetsu Taiko Society
◇Japan-Canada Chamber of Commerce