Good day to you, fine reader! Or maybe you aren’t having a good day? Well, a wise person once told me that if you aren’t having a good day, you should go out and do something to make it good. Alright. Maybe the wise person wasn’t so wise and he was actually just me talking to myself at 3 in the morning (not out-loud), but that is not the point! The point is that I practice what I preach. Therefore, I did something recently that was guaranteed to result into an exceptionally good day. I attended a fantastic event called the Nihon Matsuri.
The Nihon Matsuri is entirely unique and one of the most fun festivals to attend in Salt Lake City. This festival celebrates Japanese-Utahn life and culture. It happens once a year in an area the locals call Japantown, behind the Salt Palace along 100 South between 200 West and 300 West.
The festival offers entertainment for everyone. Two large stages bookend a closed-off street where live dancing and music are performed throughout the day. They also have martial arts demonstrations, taiko drum performances, and even a cosplay contest! Along the street you can find traditional Japanese cuisine, souvenirs, children’s activities, and information about the community. Everywhere you look people are smiling, chatting, and having a wonderful time.
Not to be outdone by all the outdoor activities are the tours of the Buddhist Temple. Inside, you find a simple worship hall highlighted with ornate shrines dedicated to the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. A guide walks you through its history and philosophy, which emphasizes living a spiritually-awakened life in the midst of ordinary circumstances.
Sitting opposite of the worship hall was a very popular and fascinating exhibit hall. This area was packed with people throughout the day, including local and foreign dignitaries. Those who ventured through were rewarded not only with air conditioning, but with captivating showpieces from the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Japanese Archive. This archive offers a glimpse into the unique world of Japanese-Utahns from the early days building the railroad to the present day. The exhibit included photographs, oral histories, and artifacts set up by Lorraine Crouse, who manages the archive for the Library. She was also instrumental in adding the extraordinary Utah Nippo Newspaper to the archive, which was on display as well!
The Utah Nippo chronicles Japanese-American history for over 78 years. Founded in 1914 and printed until 1991, its immense value is not only historical. The newspaper speaks of life, struggle, and the perseverance of its founders and the Japanese American community. Interestingly enough, the Utah Nippo was the sole privately-owned Japanese newspaper allowed to be published in the U.S. during World War II. Therefore, it became the primary source of reading for many Japanese-Americans housed in internment camps like Topaz. It is a rare gem of knowledge and information that can now be read online at https://digitalnewspapers.org/
Spoiler alert! I, too, work at the J. Willard Marriott Library as the Assistant Head of Digital Library Services. I attended the Nihon Matsuri to enjoy the festivities as well as to help get the word out on the fascinating digital collections we host online! Check them out! You’ll be amazed at what you might find. And definitely don’t miss out on next year’s Nihon Matsuri festival. I guarantee you’ll walk in and away delighted for the experience.