The Japanese Tea Garden. Courtesy photo.
The Japanese Tea Garden. Courtesy photo.

The Japan-America Society of San Antonio (JASSA) is happy to announce its 2014 Aki Matsuri to be held from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Japanese Tea Garden. This event is sponsored by the City of San Antonio through the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Aki Matsuri, or Fall Festival, aims to celebrate Japanese culture in San Antonio and give attendees a sense of the various customs and cultural contributions from the land of the rising sun.

Performances will be held throughout the day and will include traditional Japanese cultural demonstrations such as Shakuhachi (bamboo flute), Sumo, Taiko drumming, Kamishibai (storytelling) and a tea ceremony. In addition, workshops and craft tables will give people of all ages the chance to make origami, kabuto (paper helmets), uchiwa (fans) and traditional paper kites.

With Halloween right around the corner, fans of dressing up will have another chance to do so with the Cosplay Fashion Show. Cosplay, short for ‘costume play’ in Japanese, refers to dressing up like a character from popular culture. Anime aficionados of all ages will be able to show off their best costumes and pay homage to their favorite large-eyed, neon-haired characters from Japanese anime, manga or video games.

Mega Man, also known by his Japanese name Rockman, is a Nintendo video game. The game was originally introduced into North America in 1987 and there continues to be spin-off versions of this game offered today through mobile devices.
Cosplay at San Japan 2013: Mega Man, also known by his Japanese name Rockman, is a Nintendo video game. Photo by Kay Richter.

To top it off, JASSA will also host a karaoke contest where those who want to belt out their favorite tunes can win a prize for their renditions of Japanese language songs.

At first glance, it may not seem as if San Antonio and Japan have much of a connection. However, according to the City of San Antonio’s International Relations Office, 42 companies in the Alamo City are headquartered in Japan. Toyota, Sony and Maruchan are some of the largest Japanese business ventures that have elected San Antonio as their base of operations.

San Antonio also has a longstanding sister city relationship with the southern city of Kumamoto in Japan. Throughout the years, several educational and economic exchange programs have successfully taken place between the two cities. A token of this great international friendship, the Kumamoto En, was gifted to San Antonio in 1989 and can be seen today at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

the Kumamoto En - was gifted to San Antonio in 1989 and can be seen today at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Photo via JapaneseGardening.org.
The Kumamoto En at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo via JapaneseGardening.org.

There is even a stone monument at the Alamo dedicated to international peace and unity between the U.S. and Japan. According to Sister Margit Nagy, historian at Our Lady of the Lake University, the Japanese monument in the Alamo Convent Courtyard was presented on Nov. 6, 1914 by Professor Shiga (J?k?) Shigetaka (1863-1927). Its presence is a tangible sign of deeds of friendship bridging cultural differences during World War I, a time of rising anti-Japanese hostility in the U.S. Prof. Shiga, a Waseda University geographer and a writer, had heard the story of the heroes of the Alamo and was moved by the tale of selfless dedication to the cause of freedom and a loyalty that endured unto death.

The battle of the Alamo reminded him of the battle of Nagashino in 1575. Like James Bonham, Torii Suneemon, a defender of Nagashino Castle, sneaked through enemy lines to get help. Also like Bonham, he returned to die with the other defenders, despite the chance to save his own life.

While not immediately obvious, San Antonio and Japan are far more connected than many would guess. The Fall Festival seeks to celebrate this important link. Whether you’re a die-hard otaku or merely have a casual interest in the fascinating culture of Japan, the Aki Matsuri should have something for everyone.

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Oct. 26, 2014

Where: Japanese Tea Garden, 3853 N. St. Mary’s St.

Admission: Free (donations requested). Food and vendor items will be available for purchase—cash only.

For more information, visit the Japan-America Society of San Antonio’s website at jas-sa.org.

*Featured/top image: The Japanese Tea Garden. Courtesy photo.

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Ian Cruz

Ian Cruz is the vice president of cultural activities for the Japan-America Society of San Antonio. After spending three years in Kumamoto teaching English for the JET Program, he is back in San Antonio...