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Saudi Arabia Hosted A Four Day Japanese Cultural Festival

Art Jameel recently hosted the Hayy Matsuri festival, a four-day cultural program, in collaboration with the Consulate General of Japan in Jeddah. The event aimed to showcase Japanese tradition, language, and art, and featured a variety of activities such as performances, cosplay, food tastings, arts and crafts, language exchange, and knowledge exchange. The festival took place at the Red Sea port city’s Hayy Jameel complex and was a cultural and educational community event.

Sara Al-Omran, deputy director of Art Jameel, emphasized that the festival aimed to promote cross-pollination between different creative endeavors and support artists and creative communities through contemporary and relevant projects such as the Hayy Matsuri. The event was developed by creatives from the region who responded to an open call to participate in the inaugural festival.

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The festival was also an opportunity to strengthen the bond between Saudi Arabia and Japan, according to Shimmura Izuru, consul general of Japan in Jeddah. Speaking at the event, he highlighted the social acceptance of Japanese culture among the younger Saudi generation and expressed hope that events like the Hayy Matsuri would further enhance their interests and promote Japanese culture.

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The festival program included tea-ceremony and origami demonstrations, Japanese calligraphy, flower arranging, musical cosplay, traditional dance performances, film screenings, authentic cuisine, arts and craft workshops, and anime. There was also a daily community market that offered a taste of Japan inspired by traditions.

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Satoe Bamofleh, founder of online Japanese language school Hanamru, was promoting courses to Arabic speakers during the festival. She noted an increase in interest and demand for Japanese language skills among Saudi youngsters and saw the festival as an excellent platform to reach out to many people and give them a chance to experience a new culture.

Running alongside the festival, Hayy Matsuri: at the Cinema presented iconic and genre-defining films by world-renowned directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, who is known for his poignant family chronicles and recipient of the Palme d’Or award at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. The festival also featured anime, a genre at the heart of Japanese film practices, presenting the work of acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Makoto Shinkai.

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Zohra Ait El-Jamar, Hayy Cinema senior manager, highlighted that cinema offers a window to the world that helps us better understand other cultural practices and differences. The Hayy Matsuri festival was a great opportunity to build this comprehension, particularly with Kore-eda films, which touch on the sensitive topic of family ties, a universal subject.

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Hayy Matsuri’s movie program also included the 2021 Japanese-Saudi cultural collaboration “The Journey” directed by Kobun Shizuno, which showcased the rich culture of Saudi Arabia viewed through the stylings of Japanese animation. The festival was a unique opportunity to celebrate the cultural exchange between the kingdom and Japan.

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