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After 45 years and a long pandemic, Vancouver has proven to be as irrepressible as two of the communities it serves.
Let’s start with Canadians of Japanese descent, whose legacy of resilience is exemplified across the country. After being ordered to leave their homes and property seized during World War II, they were forced to live in overcrowded internment camps far from the Pacific coast.
They suffered from unspeakable racism during and after the war, but that did not deter them from starting over. And within a generation, Canadians of Japanese descent were thriving like never before – in the arts and culture, professions, business, education and other public services. Oh yes, and the environment, as the country’s most famous inmate, David Suzuki, so brilliantly demonstrated. The community’s post-war revival and successful fight for justice inspired Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Then there’s the Downtown Eastside, which the Powell Street Festival has called home from the start. Despite the challenges of homelessness, drug addiction and poverty, residents, with the festival’s continued support, repeatedly rise up and fight for a better world.
This year’s Powell Street Festival will continue the 45-year tradition of providing Japanese Canadians and residents of the Downtown Eastside with a strong sense of pride in their history, culture and contributions to the community.
The organizers have organized plenty of opportunities for people to come together through dance classes, origami workshops, art installations and other events throughout the month of July.
âOur priority this year was to keep the community connected despite the unpredictability of the pandemic,â said Emiko Morita, executive director of the Powell Street Festival. âThere are more intimate opportunities to connect with people, but it’s a very different approach than the usual large gathering in the historic district.
The festival website is the hub for all of its free programming, culminating in a critical mass of activity during the BC Day long weekend from July 31 to August 1.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, this year’s festival will be presented in a hybrid format, with a mix of online and in-person events and exhibits.
People can enjoy the celebrations from their computer screens or participate in the activities organized at Oppenheimer Park in the historic Japanese Quarter, now known as the Downtown Eastside. Participants can also order delicious food in advance from Japanese-Canadian community groups or Japanese crafts and goods that can be picked up at the festival depot on July 31 and August 1. There is something that will appeal to everyone.
Across Canada, people are also encouraged to learn it, film the routine themselves and submit it to the Powell Street Festival. The team will create a video with the submissions which will premiere at the festival. Those who live in Vancouver are invited to participate in the flash mob taking place at Oppenheimer Park.
The festival is also hosting a lottery with all proceeds going to the non-profit organization to help ensure its resilience. There are over 20 prizes to be won. To buy tickets,.
âWhile the Powell Street Festival is important to Japanese Canadians in Vancouver and across the country, it is equally vital to Vancouver’s independent arts and culture scene,â said Morita. âWe are respected as a popular event that has never been commercialized and which is a unique and welcoming space for everyone, such as members of the Downtown Eastside and BIPOC community. “
For those who wish to embrace Japanese-Canadian culture, these five events are not to be missed.
The anti-riot march 360
This guided walking tour gives festival-goers a glimpse of the anti-Asian protest that took place outside Vancouver City Hall in 1907.
âWe aim to present diverse perspectives and question what people think it means to be Canadian of Japanese descent,â said Morita. âThe 360 ââRiot Walk is also associated with a facilitated discussion that allows people to better understand discrimination among a range of minority groups affected by the anti-Asian riots of 1907. Unfortunately, this is very relevant at this time because there has been an increase in hate crimes against Asian Canadians since the start of the pandemic. “
The 360 ââRiot Walk will be offered in Japanese, Cantonese, Punjabi and English.
The Distance Book virtual reality experience
Discover Randall Okita’s immersive virtual reality film Distance Book at the Vancouver Japanese Language School (487 Alexander Street). Okita shares her grandfather’s life story through the insightful film. People can book tours to the language school from July 28 to August 1.
Okita will also be giving an in-person artist talk on August 1.
The taiko drum heard along Powell Street
Taiko means “drum” in Japanese, and large percussion instruments have been used throughout history for the purposes of communication, military action, entertainment, and religious purposes. At the corner of Powell Street and Jackson Avenue, listen to the sounds of taiko drums emanating from the rooftop of the Vancouver Japanese Language School. Stop at a nearby cafe for an iced coffee, then find a spot to listen to the powerful performance.
DIY sumo origami
Those who miss the festival’s annual sumo tournament can participate in something similar from the comfort of their own homes. Follow the origami video tutorial on the Powell Street Festival to create your own mini paper sumo wrestlers.
Shows on demand
At your leisure, enjoy commissioned works by artists such as Denise Sherwood, Sawagi Taiko, Onibana Taiko, Adrian Sherwood, Don Chow, Kazuma Glen Motomura and Sammy Chien, Jody Okabe, Rupe Singh, Katari Taiko, Aya Garcia, Shion Skye Carter and Kiysuu, Rita Wong, Emily Riddle, Sacha Ouellet, E. Hiroko Isomura and more have been released throughout July. All of these exceptional performances are available on the Powell Street Festival website.
For more information on the festival’s programs and presentations and to reserve a spot for in-person events, visit