Matsuri, the Japanese festival that was hosted by Japan House annually before the pandemic, was finally back this year, and the community came out in droves. The last Matsuri was in 2019, and we were all ready to see this delightful festival return. It is one truly one of those special campus + community events — a demonstration that such a thing is possible, and can offer something for all ages and backgrounds.
Saturday was a mild, windy day, and though the festival was hit with a bout of rain, it was brief. There were definitely crowds, though that part felt manageable in terms of finding spots to sit and take in the various entertainment options, or just generally walking around and enjoying the atmosphere. Where you felt it, was when your stomach started rumbling. There were plenty of wonderful options for food, and most had very long lines to obtain said food. It was a little discouraging, as I found myself weighing the food I really wanted to try versus which line might be shorter. However, the Matsuri volunteers were doing a really great job at trying to keep things moving efficiently. They were walking up and down the lines with little clipboards, checking off items you’d like to order, so that all you had to do was hand over that slip of paper when you arrived at the front. They were working the Triptych line in similar fashion.
My family was a hungry bunch when we arrived, and happened to catch Aroma Indian Cuisine right as they were reloading their food, meaning we caught it before the line got longer. While I was really interested in trying the specials at Watson’s (they had me at kimchi mac and cheese), we love Indian food (and short lines) so Aroma it was. And of course, it was all delicious. My favorite was their butter paneer.
The longest wait we experienced was probably for a Korean corn dog from Kimchi Factory — about 20 minutes or so — but damn was that thing was good. Crunchy, greasy, gooey deliciousness.
There was a wonderfully short line for Suzu’s Bakery, so I also made sure to slip over and grab a cookie pan and some brownie bites. Both reminders that I do not go to Suzu’s nearly often enough.
I loved having the ability to walk throughout the entire festival with my Triptych seltzer in hand. It was much better than previous years, where you were bound to a certain area. So in between taking turns in food lines, and browsing the various merchants, we’d park ourselves in the grass by the main stage, and watch the rotating groups of performers representing a swath of Asian cultures. There were both student and Chicago-based groups. We saw the Philippine Student Association perform a dance with water glasses (Binasuan), UIUC Fataaka with some Bollywood, and the Japanese drum group Ho Etsu Taiko, regulars at Matsuri.
Here are a few more scenes from the day: