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Vancouver’s Japanese-Canadian Powell Street Festival

Powell Street Festival

The Powell Street Festival celebrates Japanese-Canadian culture around East Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park during the BC Day Long Weekend.

Japanese Powell Street Festival

The Powell Street Festival includes live performances, vendor stalls, Japanese festival foods, cultural demonstrations and walking tours around the neighbourhood. It’s a great festival and admission is free.


FESTIVAL CANCELLED, BUT STILL HAPPENING …

Due to COVID-19, the Japanese Powell Street Festival has been cancelled, at least in its usual format. The event is no longer taking place as a public gathering event. Organizers are instead offering an alternative way for participants to enjoy Japanese art and culture.

In place of a live event at Oppenheimer Park, in 2020 the festival takes the form of a live online telethon benefiting various Vancouver Downtown East Side projects. On August 1st, 2020, the event features cultural performances and scenes from past festivals and participants between 2:00 and 7:00 pm.

For more details see the Japanese Powell Street Festival website.


Information in this article includes the following:

When & Where | Festival Activities | Saturday Schedule | Sunday Schedule | Tips & Advice | Other Information

Click any of the above links to jump to specific information, or continue reading to learn all about the Powell Street Festival.


Powell Street Festival Venue
Oppenheimer Park during the Powell Street Festival

When and Where

In 2020 the Powell Street Festival was going to happen on the Saturday and Sunday of August 1st and 2nd. In years when it does take place it usually runs from about 11:30 am until the early evening each day.

The festival activities normally take place primarily at Oppenheimer Park, but also close by at the Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver Japanese Language School & Japanese Hall, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple. In 2019 no activities were held at Oppenheimer Park itself; instead they happened in streets and other venues nearby.

In 2020, instead of the live event on both August 1st and 2nd, an online telethon-style event is scheduled for Saturday August 1st. 2021 details are to be confirmed.

Usual Venue Locations

The Firehall Arts Centre is a theatre located in a historic fire station building at 280 East Cordova Street. The Vancouver Japanese Language School is located at 487 Alexander Street and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple is at 220 Jackson Avenue. The Street Stage was going to be located on Jackson Avenue in 2020 instead of at its usual Oppenheimer Park location (but that changed after the live festival got cancelled due to COVID-19). All four venues are located within about three blocks of one another.

If you like Japanese food and culture, don’t let the Downtown East Side location stop you from attending. On festival day especially, it’s safe, plus it’s an interesting and historically significant part of the city.

Sumo Ring at Japanese Festival
Sumo Wrestling Ring at Oppenheimer Park

Japanese Festival Activities

At the Powell Street Festival, in years when it does take place, there are Japanese art and cultural displays, Japanese and other types of food for sale, market stalls and martial arts demonstrations. There are also various forms of live entertainment, and workshops showcasing Japanese culture and heritage. There is usually even sumo wrestling!

For an idea of what to expect in future years, the highlights of the Powell Street Festival in 2019 are listed below.


Saturday, August 3rd, 2019


Diamond Stage

  • 11:30 amOpening Ceremonies
  • 12:30 pmOnibana Taiko Japanese Drumming
  • 2:00 pmSawagi Taiko Drumming
  • 3:00 pmOtowa Ryu Japanese Dance
  • 4:15 pm TEKE::TEKE
  • 5:30 pmDahaza
  • 6:30 pm Sansho Daiko

Demo Area

  • 12:00 pmUndōkai
  • 1:00 pmRakuichi Omikoshi
  • 2:30 pm Ainu Performance

Street Stage

  • 12:00 pmEnsemble Liberta
  • 1:00 pmBanana Bread
  • 2:00 pmChibi Taiko Japanese Drumming
  • 3:00 pmSeishun Youth Academy
  • 4:00 pmVancouver Okinawa Taiko Japanese Drumming
  • 5:00 pmKaya Kurz & The Criers
  • 6:00 pm Noor Dance
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko Performance
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko at Powell Street Festival

Buddhist Temple

  • 12:00 pmBonsai Demonstrations
  • 1:30 pmIkebana (Japanese Flower Arrangement) Demonstrations
  • 2:30 pmSanctuary Visit
  • 3:30 pm –  Ikebana Demonstrations
  • 4:30 pmSanctuary Visit

Firehall Theatre

  • 12:00 pmSally Ito
  • 1:00 pmSharon Minemoto Quartet
  • 2:00 pmYuni Mori with Kisyuu
  • 3:00 pmChihei Hatakeyama with Mark Mushet
  • 4:00 pmKatrina Wolfe & Joey Largent
  • 5:00 pmRe-Pronunciation

Vancouver Japanese Language School

In the Japanese Hall

  • 12:30 pm Shohei Juku Aikido Canada
  • 2:00 pm Baton Twirling Team
  • 3:30 pmVancouver Iaido Club
  • 4:30 pmUBC Bujutsu
  • 5:30 pmShito Ryu Karate

On the 4th Floor

  • 12:30 pmMisao Kumagai (Room 416)
  • 3:30 pmHistory, Culture, and the Right to Remain in SROs today (Room 416)
  • 4:30 pmLandscapes of Injustice (Room 416)
  • 5:30 pmLet’s Kataribe (Room 416)
Japanese Choir at Festival
The Sakura Singers

Sunday, August 4th, 2019


Diamond Stage

  • 11:30 amThe Sakura Singers
  • 12:30 pmKatari Taiko Japanese Drumming
  • 1:30 pmSatsuki-kai Odori Group
  • 3:00 pmTEKE::TEKE
  • 5:00 pm Kasha Konaka
  • 5:30 pmAinu Performance
  • 6:30 pmJodaiko

Demo Area

  • 2:00 pmTanko Bushi
  • 4:00 pm Sumo Tournament

Street Stage

  • 12:00 pm Kohei Yoshino
  • 1:00 pmYuni Mori with Kohei Yoshino
  • 2:00 pmGo Taiko Japanese Drumming
  • 3:00 pm Handpan Journey
  • 4:00 pmKisyuu Japanese Calligrapher
  • 5:00 pmKanata
  • 6:00 pm West Side Warriors

Buddhist Temple

  • 12:00 pmBonsai (Miniature Tree) Demonstrations
  • 1:30 pm Ikebana (Flower Arranging) Demonstrations
  • 2:30 pmSanctuary Visit
  • 3:30 pmIkebana Demonstrations
  • 4:30 pmSanctuary Visit

Firehall Theatre

  • 12:00 pmEnsemble Liberta
  • 1:00 pmDe Couto/Say/Arai Trio
  • 3:00 pmHayashi Studio
  • 4:00 pmKotojiro
  • 5:00 pmBushido

Vancouver Japanese Language School

In the Japanese Hall 

  • 11:30 amBujinkan Taka Seigi Dojo
  • 12:30 pmAikido Busenkai
  • 1:30 pmShorinji Kempo
  • 2:30 pmYoshinkan Aikido B.C. Association
  • 3:30 pmKyudo Association of Canada

On the 4th Floor

  • 12:00 pmNuclear Issues in 21st Century: Invisible Danger of Radiation (Room 416)
  • 5:30 pmLandscapes of Injustice (Room 416)

Tips and Advice

Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your experience at the Powell Street Festival.

TIP #1: Join one of the walking tours. They are very interesting and worth checking out.

TIP #2: A couple of our favourite Japanese festival foods are okonomiyaki (a kind of savory cabbage pancake) and takoyaki (Yorkshire pudding-like balls with pieces of octopus inside). We recommend you try them out if you see them for sale.

TIP #3: If you like this kind of event and Japanese culture, other festivals you might be interested in at other times of the year include the following:

Powell Street Festival Food Vendors
Food vendors at the Powell Street Festival

Other Information

For full details on what is happening at the event see the Powell Street Festival website.

For a list of other events happening on the first Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday in August, click BC Day Long Weekend.

For information on other festivals in the Lower Mainland, see the Festivals & Events Calendar.

BC Day Long Weekend