The Powell Street Festival celebrates Japanese-Canadian culture around East Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park during the BC Day Long Weekend.
Information in this article includes the following:
When & Where | Festival Activities | Saturday Schedule | Sunday Schedule | Tips & Advice | Festival Video | Other Information
Click any of the above links to jump to specific information, or continue reading to learn all about the Powell Street Festival.
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.
In 2022 the festival happened at Oppenheimer Park on the Saturday and Sunday of July 30th and 31st. In 2023 it’s on August 5th and 6th.
For a video about the Japanese-themed event at Oppenheimer Park click Festival Video or scroll to the bottom of this article. To learn about the festival in general, continue reading.
When and Where
In 2022 the festival ran on July 30th and the 31st. There were also pre-festival events, including weekly Paueru Mashup Dance lessons (both online and in-person) in June and July as well as a beginners sumo class on July 10th.
The 2023 Powell Street Festival takes place on the Saturday and Sunday of August 5th and 6th. As of mid-January, additional details are to be confirmed.
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.
Usual Venue Locations
The Firehall Arts Centre is a theatre located in a historic fire station building at 280 East Cordova Street. Just down the way, the Vancouver Japanese Language School’s address is 487 Alexander Street and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple’s address is 220 Jackson Avenue. The Street Stage is located on Jackson Avenue and Alexander Street. All four venues are located within about three blocks of one another. In 2022 there were also activities at Oppenheimer Park, which is at 400 Powell Street.
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.
Japanese Festival Activities
At the Powell Street Festival there are usually 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 2023, below are the most noteworthy events from the 2022 festival. There was also an immersive audio and visual installation called Kūsou at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, which was available to see from July 28th until August 3rd in 2022.
Saturday, July 30th, 2022
- Vancouver Iaido Club (12:00 pm) – a traditional Samurai martial arts demonstration at Oppenheimer Park featuring Japanese swords.
- Ichigo-Ichieh New Theatre: Hiromoto Ida (2:00 pm) – a solo dance performance by Ida at the Firehall Arts Centre.
- Vancouver Okinawa Taiko (3:15 pm) – a 30-minute drum-dancing session promoting Okinawan culture on the Street Stage.
- Tasai Collective (4:00 pm) – a show at the Vancouver Japanese School by Sora, Yurie and Steve that is dance, music and lights all melded into one performance.
- Kytami & Phonik Ops (5:30 pm) – the violinist and producer duo perform their unique sound at Oppenheimer Park.
- Kimiko Dorey (6:00 pm) – a hafu vocalist hits the Street Stage for a traditional solo performance.
Sunday, July 31st, 2022
- Origami (12:00 pm) – learn paper folding with Taeko Morita from 12:00 to 5:00 pm at Oppenheimer Park.
- 360 Riot Walk Live Tour (2:00 pm) – a guided tour at the Vancouver Japanese Language School that uses 360-degree video to show the history of the 1907 Vancouver Anti-Asian Riots.
- Zai Daikon (2:30 pm) – a Japanese theatrical group performs plays at the Firehall Arts Centre.
- Kokoro Dance with Jo Passed (3:00 pm) – butoh dance by Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi, choreographed to Jo Passed music at Oppenheimer Park.
- The Deep Cove (4:00 pm) – a rock band with a unique sound performs cinematic and catchy tracks on the Street Stage.
- Sumo Tournament (4:00 pm) – an exciting competition where participants force their opponents out of a circle at Oppenheimer Park.
On top of these events listed, there were a number of other activities. Visit the Powell Street Festival Society website to see all that’s on offer.
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:
- Sakura Days Japan Fair – a Japanese cherry blossom festival at VanDusen Botanical Garden as part of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in April.
- Nikkei Matsuri – a Japanese festival at Burnaby’s Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre on the Labour Day Weekend in September.
Powell Street Festival Video
To get a good idea of what the festival looks like, check out the video below. It shows scenes of the event from 2022. As you’ll see, there is a stage where live performances take place. Some events, like the martial arts demonstrations, also take place on the lawn in front of the stage. Elsewhere in the park and surrounding streets there are market vendors and food stalls.
To learn more about the event see the Powell Street Festival website.
The same organization that hosts the Powell Street Festival sometimes hosts another, yet much smaller event in late winter. Setsubun is a free event that also takes place at Oppenheimer Park. In 2023 it took place in February and featured taiko drumming, dancing, a Sacred Fire and other activities. There was also a community meal with Japanese curry rice and hot apple cider. To learn more about this event click Setsubun 2023.
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.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s July Calendar of Events
- Vancouver’s August Calendar of Events
- Summer Activities in the Lower Mainland
- History and Culture in Vancouver
- Vancouver on a Budget
- Vancouver’s ExplorASIAN Festival