Rissho Kosei-kai of Tampa Bay held its second annual Japanese Cultural Festival on March 30th. The event was twice the size and scope of the previous year's festival and brought a whole new assortment of entertainment, vendors, displays, etc. The first Japanese Cultural Festival held on October 1st, 2011 was a big success bringing in 300 people to a small space. This year's event however, utilized two distinct outdoor spaces at the Unitarian Universalists Church of Clearwater, a vendor and display side as well as a food and entertainment side. Both were decorated in the fashion of a traditional Japanese festival, with hanging lanterns strewn throughout the grounds and Japanese festival music being played as a backdrop.
This year's entertainment featured a Japanese themed band that played the koto, an authentic Okinawa-style tea ceremony, an Aiki-jujutsu demonstration, karaoke, bon odori, and a DJ playing traditional and modern Japanese hits. There was also a Hello Kitty bounce house and traditional Japanese games like Yoyo-tsuri for the kids, bonsai and ikebana displays, origami and shodo activities, a number of vendors selling Japanese goods, and even a Pikachu -inspired VW Beetle on display! This year the sangha concentrated on food preparation as their main activity, selling Japanese curry, yakitori, yakitomorokoshi, taiyaki, nikuman, korokke, and cotton candy. A few members gathered the day before the festival and prepared the ingredients and cooked the curry for over 12 hours.
In the end, the turnout made all the efforts worthwhile as a total of 530 people attended the festival! Long lines maintained at the entrance for over an hour and parking was extended across the street as it was overflowing in the UUC parking lot. This also served as a great fundraising event for the Buddhist Center of Tampa Bay. Because of the diligent and sincere efforts of all the members and volunteers, the Tampa Bay sangha was able to have its most successful event since its inception.