Japan Week 2022 at Christchurch City Libraries

Whew! What a week it was! That time we celebrated Japanese culture in the libraries in the middle of COVID restrictions.

Following the strict redlight setting, Te Hāpua and Tūranga libraries went ahead with the plan and delivered, not only one but two very successful events. “We miss attending events like this” said one customer at Tūranga when she saw the poster.

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre kicked off the celebrations on 12 March with displays, origami and crafts. Our display was prominent at the front of the library and received some very welcome comments and interest – of special interest were the cultural items borrowed from the Consular Office of Japan in Christchurch and our lovely library mannequin dressed up in a yukata' (浴衣). Yukata is a summer kimono and they are really commonly worn in Japan today at summer festivals, also at bath houses and traditional Japanese inns and was kindly loaned to us from a Te Hāpua team member.

Further into the library we had our origami and craft session running, and it was great to see customers of all ages giving it a go and displaying their crafted blossom on our wooden tree.

The two absolute highlights were the Shiki Japanese Music Group, named after the Four Seasons (Shiki四季), who played on 19 March. We had four members, including a member’s eight-year-old daughter (who played beautifully), play their kotos. The koto is the national instrument of Japan and it was lovely to sit back with everyone who came along to listen to the wonderful music.  It was also great to listen to Maureen Heffernan explain the koto’s origins and an explanation of each song.  Maureen works at the Consular Office of Japan in Christchurch and was very supportive in lending out all the fabulous cultural items that we had on display.

The second highlight was the Takumi Japanese Drumming Group who came along on Sunday 20 March. This group always wows the audience with their heart-pounding rhythm and energy, and even though it was a smaller group than normal they definitely didn’t disappoint! Taiko is a traditional Japanese form of percussion performance using large drums, or wadaiko, which created a short impactful performance where we got to be amazed at the awesome sound and tempo.

Stream japanese drum music with your library card 

Catalogue record for Japanese Drums (streaming music)Catalogue record for Japanese Drums (streaming music)Catalogue record for Japanese drums (streaming music)

Meanwhile, Tūranga started their celebration with a display of Japanese cultural items set up on He Hononga. It was prominently displayed by the stairs where customers could see them on their way up to other floors or when they were about to leave the building. The display was very popular with the customers but some items in particular stood out, like the food display. One can only imagine how many people decided to have sushi or ramen after seeing the display!

On 20 March, Tūranga hosted Shiki Japanese Music Group, Sei Tou Ken Yu Kai Canterbury Kendo Kendo Club and the display of five gorgeous kimono arranged by the Japanese Society of Canterbury. Consul Mr Hada and his wife were invited together with Councillor Jimmy Chen. Erika Rankin, one of the Managers of Christchurch City Libraries, opened the event and welcomed the guests, performers and audience. On that day more than 80 people came and enjoyed the event.

The hard-to-miss display of five exquisite kimonos, greeted the guests on entering the TSB Space. This impressive display created by the ladies of Japanese Society of Canterbury left customers in awe and plenty of people took photos of this instagrammable display.

After the speeches, Shiki took the stage and played the Koto, a 13-stringed zither, beautifully. Their renditions of classical and popular Japanese melodies, coupled with explanations and descriptions, were astounding.  TSB Space created the perfect ambience for the Koto instrument.

In contrast to Shiki’s melodic and soothing performance was Kendo’s energetic demonstration where they showed tactical martial arts skills and engaged the crowd. Volunteers from the audience were invited to join them and got a taste of an authentic “kendo” experience.

Catalogue record for Kendo: Culture of the swordCatalogue record for Kendo Catalogue record for Kendo: The definitive guideCatalogue record for Kendo world

Left in such high spirits that when we ended, a customer asked if we have more performances coming. Not today, but maybe next year when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sisterhood between Kurashiki and Christchurch city.

Overall, it’s another successful celebration of Japanese Culture at Christchurch City Libraries and we look forward to repeating this in the coming years and spread these celebrations across different libraries.

Hayley Concepcion, Amber Li and Donella Pringle-Davis

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