“Matsuri” in Japanese means “festival” and the Nikkei Matsuri is indeed a traditional-style Japanese festival. In 2020 it took place on the Fridays and Saturdays of August 7th & 8th and 21st & 22nd, as well as on September 4th & 5th. However, the event format was revised because of COVID-19. Hopefully it will be able to take place normally in 2021.
In normal years at the event there are tea ceremonies, numerous performances, a marketplace, food vendors and a variety of family-friendly activities. In years with good weather (and no COVID-19), as many as 14,000 people attend over the course of the weekend.
When is the Nikkei Matsuri?
The Nikkei Matsuri normally takes place on the last Saturday and Sunday of the summer, just before kids return to school, so on the Labour Day weekend. It usually starts at 11 am on both days and runs until 7 pm.
Different from usual, in 2020, in addition to taking place on September 4th & 5th of the holiday weekend, it also happened on the Fridays and Saturday of August 7th & 8th and 21st & 22nd. On all three weekends, however, it was a smaller event than in previous years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Where is the Nikkei Matsuri?
Parking & Transportation
Limited parking is available at the Nikkei Centre’s underground parkade for about $12 per day and can be reserved in advance through the Nikkei Matsuri website most years, although those spaces sell out well before the event day. Limited day parking is also available on site on event day.
Guests are encouraged to take public transit. In years when the full event happens on the September Long Weekend, a free festival shuttle is available most years between the Nikkei Centre and nearby Edmonds SkyTrain Station with departures every thirty minutes or so between about 11 am and 7 pm.
In years when there isn’t a global pandemic, admission to limited festival activities outdoors in the Garden at the Nikkei Centre is free. Admission to indoor activities, however, which includes a marketplace, workshops, Game Zone and main stage performance, costs about $4 per person and $14 for a family of four. Children ages 4 and under are free.
In 2020, visitors had to purchase tickets in advance for specific time slots. A limited number of guests were allowed in at a time to ensure proper physical distancing. Admission in 2020 cost $6.32 including taxes.
Nikkei Matsuri Activities
In a typical year, the Nikkei Matsuri is a Japanese community festival featuring a wide range of activities including live performances and a Game Zone, as well as a small marketplace, a Japanese used book sale and opportunities to try on a yukata (which is a type of summer kimono). 2020, however, was different.
Entertainment at the Nikkei Matsuri on the Labour Day weekend usually includes performances by various local singing and dance groups, Taiko drummers and other performers. Some performances are indoors and some are outside in the garden.
In 2020, because of COVID-19, the festival only featured an outdoor marketplace. For an idea of what normally happens, in years where there isn’t a pandemic, see below for the 2019 schedule of events.
Matsuri Game Zone
Popular with children at the Nikkei Matsuri is the Game Zone which, in years when it takes place, includes a variety of simple midway-type games where you buy tokens to play and have the chance to win prizes. Game Zone activities most years include a ring toss, balloon darts, bean bag toss and other games that young kids enjoy.
2019 Festival Performers
Highlights of the 2019 Nikkei Matsuri included the following activities and performances (and the 2021 lineup will likely be comparable):
On the Saturday (August 31, 2019)
- 11:00 am – Sansho Daiko – a Japanese taiko drumming group.
- 12:00 pm – Opening Ceremonies
- 12:45 pm – Rakuichi – a music and dance group that entertains with omikoshi demonstrations (i.e., the carrying of a portable Shinto shrine) and Shishi Mai (lion dancing).
- 12:45 pm – J Shimizu & Satsuki-Kai
- 1:30 pm – Martial Arts Demonstrations
- 2:00 pm – Shooting Star Idols
- 3:00 pm – Bon Odori with Satsuki-Kai & Sansho Daiko
- 3:30 pm – Bug and Stu
- 4:15 pm – Wailele Wai Wai
- 5:00 pm – Matsuri Star Talent
On the Sunday (September 1, 2019)
- 11:00 am – Chibi Taiko – a children’s Japanese taiko drumming group.
- 11:30 am – Seishun Youth Academy
- 12:30 pm – Kotojiro
- 1:00 pm – Martial Arts Demonstrations
- 1:30 pm – Matsuri Star Power
- 2:30 pm – Sakura Singers
- 3:00 pm – Bon Odori with Satsuki-Kai & Chibi Taiko
- 3:30 pm – Koto Ensemble
- 4:30 pm – Vancouver Okinawa Taiko
- 5:15 pm – Matsuri Star Talent – a talent competition featuring 20 contestants and a grand prize of $500. The finals take place indoors from 5 until 7 pm in the Special Events Hall.
For more information on the festival see the Nikkei Matsuri website and for details on the venue and organization behind the event see our article about the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Sakura Days Japan Fair – a Japanese festival celebrating cherry blossom season at VanDusen Botanical Garden in April.
- Powell Street Festival – a Japanese-themed event in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side over the BC Day August Long Weekend
- Vancouver History & Culture – a list of some of the region’s most interesting cultural events and places of interest.