Last weekend, East London got a Far Eastern makeover! The first ever Festival Asia descended upon Tobacco Dock, showcasing everything Asia from taiko drumming to belly dancing to Indonesian street food. Even better, it was sunny! I was there on Saturday in my capacity as Japan blogger but, being someone always thinking about their next holiday, planned to cover as many countries as possible. You can see all of my photos from the day over on the blog’s Facebook page.
I’d never been to Tobacco Dock before but I absolutely loved the venue. It was the perfect mix of open-air and indoors-y, very London docks-y and felt far less enclosed than some of the larger venues. Of course, this was the first event of its kind, but I really hope Festival Asia returns there next year.
The absolute highlight of the weekend for me was the belly dancing performance from the Fleur Estelle Dance School. The performers were very talented and a joy to watch, and their outfits absolutely gorgeous! I’m actually eyeing up one of their taster courses because it not only looks like a good workout but extremely good fun too.
The performance stage was then transported to China, and the audience was treated to a lively Double Lion Dance by Guan Yin Northern Lion. The lions in question were jumping around so much it was difficult to get ‘that’ brilliant photo, but I think I succeeded in the end.
Also gracing the performance stage were the Wonderful Indonesia Fashion Carnival and Indonesian Dance from Lila Bhawa. This was probably the country best represented on the day at the festival and, after wandering the Indonesian Pavilion for quite a while, I’ve added it to my very long “faraway places to visit” list.
‘But what about Japan?’ you might be asking, given how this is a Japan blog and all. Don’t worry, they were there too, in the form of the amazing Taiko West drummers. If you’ve never seen Taiko drumming in action, Taiko West hold workshops and occasional performances around the country, so check them out.
The British Go Association, a voluntary association promoting the 3,000-year old game of Go in the UK, was also on hand to teach us the basics of the game. If, like me, you thought Go is ‘kind of like Japanese chess’ you wouldn’t be 100% wrong but it somehow feels like a more elegant game. If you are interested in playing it yourself, you can check out their website for events and more fun information.
Martial arts from various countries were also doing their thing in the martial arts area. By far the coolest thing for me was the Battodo Fudokan demonstration of Japanese swordmanship (they even have courses if you want to learn the ways of the sword yourself). Some of our other highlights were the hapkido demonstration from the School of Korean Martial Arts and Karate Shinboku Kai karate demonstration. If you want to get fit, have fun, pin people to the ground or slice up bamboo, there’s no shortage of martial arts to try your hand at in England.
There was also no shortage of delicious food – everything from Indonesian street food to pad thai to bubble tea to doriyaki – and the lovely weather meant we got to enjoy our lunch outside for once! One thing I’d love to see next year at Festival Asia is the taiyaki – the amazing fish-shaped azuki bean-stuffed pancake snack.
Finally, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition of getting myself mangafied by the lovely manga artist Elena Vitagliano. We had a long chat about samurai as she was giving a talk on them on the Sunday (which I sadly missed) – apparently I need to check out the Vagabond manga. I do like the look of manga-me.
I really had a great day out at Festival Asia and spent much more time just watching (and photographing) activities rather than shop, which was good news for my purse. That said, I bought my fair share of delicious food. I look forward to Festival Asia returning next year and, if you missed if, make sure you keep an eye out for an announcement about the next one. 2016 promises to be bigger and better but, for a first time event, it was definitely a successful weekend!