After learning about the Super Japan cultural festival held by Esplanade, I’ve been poring over Esplanade’s website and getting myself hyped up by the fabulous line up of arts, culture and traditional programmes . The anticipation flowed over to the Super Japan Matsuri that is organised by WAttention Singapore in collaboration with Esplanade. Tonight marks the beginning of the highly anticipated 3 day Matsuri (Festival). Sadly though, it also marked the beginning of an uneventful and disappointing evening.
My friend and I were at The Lawn by 5pm. We had followed the throng of crowd moving towards Esplanade with an excited vibe in the air . The multitude of ‘ Super Japan’ related posters along the way only served to boost our excitement as we debated whether to order Takoyaki or Okonomiyaki.
Check out the impressive line up put together by Esplanade for Super Japan.
Look at the festive lamps with streamers! Feels like it’s going to be a great event already!
However the first thing we saw when we arrived were not the signboard or the uniquely japanese set up but the amount of people. The next thing you start to feel is your sense of lost – where do you begin? how do you start?!
I don’t do well in crowds and I started to fluster immediately. I couldn’t even find the Media booth until my friend pointed it to me, I’m embarrassing, I know. However we soon met up with the marketing staff and was given a tour of the Matsuri. Here’s a few of the booths we covered.
This is the game coupon booth. Each game coupon goes at $2 each , if you buy 10 you get one additional free.
Beside the coupon counter was the Senbonbiki game booth. Senbonbiki is basically a sort of lucky draw game where you choose a string of fate and see if it leads you to the prize you want. We didn’t bother trying for this booth since the queue, like all other booths, were snaking.
The first game we tried was the Wanage - a game not unlike the ring tossing games we played in our very own Pasar Malam (Night Market). One of the prizes were Neko Atsume plushies which a couple (or maybe they are a father and daughter pair) in front of us walked away with!
The smiles on their face were absolutely adorable! Especially the uncle that was smugly cuddling the kitty in his arms. Uncle you so cute lah!
We were given a chance at the Shateki booth though I gave it a miss – I reckon I’d shoot my eye out with my horrendous fine motor skills. One of the girls from another media managed to ace a prize though.
One of my most anticipated game was the Yo-Yo Tsuri - fishing for a water balloon with a hook on a paper thread. I gave the game a go and was valiantly defeated , this is a lot harder than it looks! It didn’t help my ego that the kids walked away with more balls than anyone (–_—; )> there must be something about those nimble young hands!
Beside the Yo-Yo-Tsuri was the Katanuki game which… even after watching , I still cannot figure out how this game is played. But by the sheer look of detemination on their faces, I know it’s a tough task! So tough that none of the media representatives dared to take the challenge hahaha!
A variety of Japanese food and beverages foodstall were also lined up to serve the ferocious crowd. They included Japanese sake, cocktail, Unagi on a stick, tebasaki, dango, dried ramen and of course, yakisoba. The variety actually took me by surprise!
Sadly the crowd is as I described – ferocious! And I am one of them! The management had completely underestimated the amount of people interested in experiencing the Japanese culture. After all, other than the occasional food fare and Natsu Matsuri held at the Japanese schools, there is no other chance to experience a Japanese Matsuri. Something every Anime or Manga fan would have hankered after given it’s commonplace in shounen and shoujo series. And any other genres, really.
As many attendees have complained online, the stores were packed too close without any clear signages and queuing instructions. Many people were left disappointed after queuing for an hour only to be told that the games were all sold out or they were in the wrong queue all together. I spent 30 minutes queuing for ramen only to be burnt in the face by the cold fact that I was actually queuing for Yakisoba –_-. Way to go kaika! I ended up abandoning my spot after my friend succeeded in getting her Tsukune Don (grilled meat with rice) because I realise I can.
Since the stores were all clustered together, the throng of queues were all herded in one area. Needless to say, it was like a free session of sauna that nobody was excited about. And the temperature continued to rise along with our emotions. The booths also forgot to include any form of signboards so it was impossible to know which stalls were selling what until you jostled to the front – which explains why I was pushed around so much today. Food and games running out before the end of the day (they say the Senbonbiki booth sold out by 6:30pm, what a bummer!) and customers with coupons that have no place to be used - unfortunately was what summed the event up for many. With an expected turn out of 12,000 , these 12 odd stores were simply overwhelmed.
I understand the organisers are passionate about all things Japan and it’s unfortunate that the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand.
However as an avid fan of Japan and having experienced a few Matsuri in the land of the rising sun, I’d like to share a few pointers on creating an authentic Matsuri. I’m sure there are Japanese staffs involved in the organisation so feel free to ignore my overbearingness. But here’s a fan girl airing her hopes for the next Matsuri at esplanade. I won’t lie, I’m already looking forward to a better event next year!
Everyone goes to a Matsuri for an authentic slice of the Japanese culture. What better way to shape that experience than the right props ? You’ll be surprised how these japanese lanterns and banner changes the mood!
2. Signage & Menu please!
The booths in Japan are almost always labelled with unique texts or drawings. What they sell is clearly stated in a place that is way above the average men so every man can know what’s available quickly. Also, no matsuri is pitch dark - we all need light to see.
3. Variety of food
I know this isn’t exactly in the jurisdiction of the organisers but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bigger variety of Japanese street food instead of the usual Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and Mitarashi dango?
Japan have a wide range of desserts such as Ichigo Daifuku (soft mochi with sweet red bean paste and strawberry stuffing), Manju (sweet bun) , Warabi mochi (jelly-like confection covered in soy bean powder), fresh senbei (Japanese rice crackers) and even the mystical Mizu Shingen Mochi (also known as raindrop cake). It’s a pity an event that aims to promote the Japanese culture would be serving snacks that are already sold in all major shopping malls. Even a stall of japanese styled crepe would have been lovely !
Not forgetting traditional beverages such as green tea, matcha or amazake (sweet fermented rice drink). We would down those authentically japanese experience in seconds!
4. More helpers
In Japan, any major event that anticipates a big amount of attendees would have staffs at every corners to direct traffic or tell you where the end of the line is. And that’s something Super Japan Matsuri urgently needs as nobody knows where to queue, how long to wait and if you’ll get what you want after queuing. If the staff knows the stock for the booth is running low, it’s better to count the lines and tell attendees to stop queuing as early as possible. Nobody likes paying money to be disappointed.
5. Spread out
The Marina Bay area is huge. Instead of huddling in an area, it might be better to follow what Marina iLights Festival did and spread the stalls out. More space to breath will make everyone happier.
Despite the lacklustre experience, I would still commend the organisers for their effort. I understand the undertaking for a Matsuri must have been mammoth and I’m glad they pulled through! It is also nice to know that there is a hungry demand for the Japanese culture despite Hallyu’s dominating wave. This sends all the right signals to the right people above which I hope will bring more of such events to Singapore despite the unhappy outcome today.
I sincerely hope the organisers will see this as constructive feedback and will continue to improve this festival. After all, who doesn’t like a Japanese Matsuri?