Editor’s note: To read more on how Georgia’s Japanese community reacted to the earthquake and tsunami, visit www.globalatlanta.com/japanreport.
In 24 years hosting JapanFest in Atlanta, organizers only once considered canceling the Southeast‘s biggest Japanese cultural festival.
That was in 2001, with the U.S. reeling from the 9/11 terror attacks. As always, JapanFest was slated for the middle of September. Organizers scrambled to push it back a month, and everything went on as planned in October.
They faced a similar quandary this year while preparing for the event’s 25th anniversary. With Japan recovering from the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, some wondered whether it was the appropriate time to celebrate.
In the end, though, it was too big of an opportunity to waste.
“We decided It would do more good to have JapanFest than not to have it,” said Yoshi Domoto, executive director of the Japan-America Society of Georgia.
The society and other organizers, including the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia and the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, have set the event for Sept. 17-18 at the Gwinnett Center.
This year’s theme is “Rise Up Japan!” to exhort the country to rebound from the catastrophe that has befallen it in the past few months.
JapanFest will be doing its part to help. All proceeds from advance ticket packages will go directly to tsunami relief. The event will also include fundraising activities and exhibits showing how organizations have helped the country in its time of crisis, Mr. Domoto said.
Though the Japanese population in Georgia is estimated at about 7,000, JapanFest usually draws around 18,000 attendees, mostly Americans from around the state and region who come to experience Japanese food, culture, games, music and art, Mr. Domoto said.
In addition to cultural performances and food and handicraft sales, the event features a Made-in-Georgia exhibit showcasing products made at Japanese-owned factories in the state.
This year’s exhibitors include the Atlanta Koi Club, Best Anime Shop and Temple University’s Japan Campus. Performers include Kozakura-kai, a traditional Japanese dance troupe, and many more.
Local companies are invited to sponsor the event to gain exposure to a Japan-focused audience. Last year’s sponsors included major Georgia-based corporations with Japan operations, like Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Aflac Inc.
For more information on JapanFest, visit www.japanfest.org.