Home Vancouver Events Calendar Festivals and Events in Vancouver in 2024 Vancouver’s Japanese-Canadian Powell Street Festival

Vancouver’s Japanese-Canadian Powell Street Festival

Powell Street Festival

The Powell Street Festival celebrates Japanese-Canadian culture around Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on the BC Day Long Weekend.

Last year the festival happened on August 5th and 6th. We expect it to take place on the Saturday and Sunday of August 3rd and 4th in 2024 to coincide with the BC Day long weekend, which falls on Monday, August 5th. Other events that take place on the same weekend include the Abbotsford Agrifair, White Rock Sea Festival, Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, Tsawwassen Sun Festival and Harmony Arts Festival. On every Friday in the summer there is also the Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver.

To learn about all of the above events, and others, see our August Calendar or article about the BC Day Long Weekend. To learn about the Japanese-themed Powell Street Festival, continue reading.

Note: The Powell Street Festival is one of two main Japanese festivals in Metro Vancouver. The other one is the Nikkei Matsuri on the Labour Day Long Weekend at the end of the summer. If you like Japanese culture, then you definitely won’t want to miss the event in September.

 


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.


 

The Sakura Singers

 

Japanese Powell Street Festival in 2023

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 the festival ran 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

The 2023 Powell Street Festival took place on the Saturday and Sunday of August 5th and 6th. Activities 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.

Oppenheimer Park isn’t the fanciest park in Vancouver, and, being in the city’s Downtown Eastside, the neighbourhood isn’t the nicest either. It’s fine to go to though when the Powell Street Festival is taking place. We’ve never had any problems. We don’t recommend you go on your own, however, or leave valuables where people can see them in your car. If you like Japanese food and Japanese culture, we highly recommend this event. It’s worth going to and it feels just like a real Japanese community festival!

 

Powell Street Festival Venue
Oppenheimer Park during the Powell Street Festival

 

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.

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

 

BC Day Long Weekend

 

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!

Below were some of the most noteworthy events that happened at the 2023 festival.

 

Sumo Ring at Japanese Festival
Sumo Wrestling Ring at Oppenheimer Park

 


Saturday, August 5th, 2023


 

  • Opening Ceremonies (11:30 am) – First Nations’ blessings and greetings by local government officials.
  • Vancouver Sakura Singers (1:15 pm) – Japanese songs on the Street Stage.
  • Vancouver Iaido Club (3:45 pm) – a traditional Samurai martial arts demonstration at Oppenheimer Park that featured Japanese swords.
  • Kimiko (5:15 pm) – a hafu vocalist hit the Diamond Stage for a heartfelt performance.
  • EPITHYMiA (6:30 pm) – five-man J-POP group performed on the Diamond Stage at Oppenheimer Park.

 

Vancouver Okinawa Taiko Performance
Vancouver Okinawa Taiko at Powell Street Festival

 


Sunday, August 6th, 2023


 

  • 360 Riot Walk Tour (11:30 am) – a guided tour at the Vancouver Japanese Language School that used 360-degree video to show the history of the 1907 Vancouver Anti-Asian Riots.
  • Zai Daikon (12:00 pm) – a Japanese theatrical group performed plays at the Firehall Arts Centre.
  • Sumo Tournament (4:00 pm) – an exciting competition where participants forced their opponents out of a circle at Oppenheimer Park.
  • Sansho Daiko (6:00 pm) – taiko drumming with western instruments and masks on the Diamond Stage at Oppenheimer Park.

On top of these events listed, there are many other activities. Visit the Powell Street Festival Society website to see all that’s on offer.

 

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

 

Tips & Advice

Below are some tips to help you make the most 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 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.

 

 

Other Information

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 2024 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 2024.

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: