Japan Day Festival Celebrated in Belize City Over the Weekend

Japan Day Festival Celebrated in Belize City Over the Weekend

While the month of November is known for activities focused on Garifuna culture, there was another cultural event held in Belize City this weekend, the annual Japan Day festival. Reporter Benjamin Flowers was at the festival on Sunday and brings you the following report.

Benjamin Flowers, Love News: Delicious Sushi, colorful kimonos, and creative cosplays were some of the highlights of this year’s Japan Day celebration in Belize City on Sunday. The event, now sixteen years running, was held at the Ramada Princess Hotel and saw hundreds in attendance throughout the day. The booths lining the room were a mix of local businesses selling merchandise, restaurants offering Japanese cuisine, and artistic demonstrations such as the paper folding art Origami and Japanese Calligraphy. Asako Solis, a representative of the Japanese Community in Belize explained that she had come to Belize as a volunteer and after falling in love with the country decided to push for holding the event, which celebrates the friendship between Belize and Japan. 

Asako Solis, Japanese Community Representative: “People come her to know about our culture. We have a Japanese Embassy, we have JICA Japanese Volunteer and then an entire Japanese community here living in Belize together. So we have some cultural demonstrations which is like Origami, caligraphy and Japanese food. Also games and then lots of Belizeans support the Anime bringing stuff to show their masterpieces and many things so we really appreciate that. I really appreciate that people accept because when I came here I was a complete outsider but now I love Belize, I could stay here and they understand our culture and I know the anime stuff is very hard to get here but still the people are eager to know and learn and enjoy so that’s really appreciated.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News: How many years have you guys been holding Japan Day ?

Asako Solis, Japanese Community Representative: “Sixteen years. Actually I was the one that started this event because at the time I had finished volunteering and I still wanted to stay here and wanted to do something. Then I asked the Embassy of Japan which at the time was only in Jamaica so we united our volunteers here and got the support and we started and every year it gets bigger so we are happy to be here.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News: Anime, formerly known as Japanime for an artistic style distinct to Japanese drawings, has steadily increased in popularity in Belize over recent years. The cosplay competition, where contestants dress up as their favorite anime characters is one of the signature events at Japan Day. The contest is hosted by Animeniacs Belize, a community for anime lovers. Eden Cruz, President of Animeniacs, says that the contest has been running for seven years, breaking only due to the pandemic. Cruz added that since its inception the number of participants and quality of the costumes has improved every year.

Eden Cruz, President, Animeniacs: “Over the years I will say there is an increase in the creativity and design because at the beginning everybody just did a little makeshift cosplay based on what they have in Belize and then over the years there are Youtube tutorials etc who help people to create their costumes. As you can see one of the interviews you did with Chainsaw Man he did that from scratch. He made that from scratch and that took hours and hours and everybody looks forward to these cosplay contests every year because once we announce it then they started preparing and designing and making their costumes so that evolution evolves and one of the great things – yes it’s cartoons/anime but the creativity and design is similar to just like Carnival. The same mentality of designing your costume for Carnival is the same engagement people use for the cosplay contest so it’s a creativity outlet for the teenagers and the adults as well.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News:  Victor Cowo one of the participants in this year’s competition showed off his dedication to his craft with a cosplay from a popular anime that he has been working on since February. Cowo said he came to Japan Day with the aim of being the back-to-back cosplay competition champion. 

Victor Cowo, Cosplayer: “Well I’m representing Denji or in his demon chainsaw form from the hit anime Chainsaw Man. In terms of the intensity of the work yes I do had to spend a lot of free time that I have since I do work a busy work schedule in the Downtown Plaza at the print shop. Just like last year with my first ever cosplay contest where I dressed as Tanjiro from the anime Demon Slayer which I actually won last year so you could say I’m returning to reclaim the throne.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News: But for others, the event was less about the competition and more about the experience. Andrew Mejia, says that after his first time visiting a Japan Day celebration, he knew he had to come back. 

Andrew Mejia, Visitor: “This is actually my second time because I recently found out about it like a year ago and it’s like a revisit because I want to experience the feeling again.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News:  Is there anything in particular that you came looking for this year ?

Andrew Mejia, Visitor: “Well I would say it’s more like the gathering of people my age and who have the same interest as me and also for the Japan cultural exchange. There’s no particular reason it’s just an outing with my friends and having a nice time and enjoying the day.”

Benjamin Flowers, Love News: There were also booths from the Japanese Embassy with information about Japan and information about the work of the volunteer organization Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This month marks the 41st anniversary of Belize and Japan’s diplomatic relations. Benjamin Flowers for Love News.

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