Cultural immersion: Children pictured during the Bon Dance, part of a Natsu Matsuri festival in Queenstown


Queenstown’s Japanese community has revised the format of its annual Natsu Matsuri, or Summer Festival, to suit Covid times.

The sixth annual celebration of all things Japanese, being held in the Queenstown Memorial Centre from 10am till 3pm today, is being called ‘Japanese Culture Workshop Day’ this year.

Instead of a series of performances and demonstrations on the stage, the event will consist of classes and workshops that’ll give participants the opportunity to get a hands-on experience.

The Japanese Family Society of Queenstown has tapped its members’ wide range of  expertise to offer sessions on art, cooking takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings), karate, origami, ukulele, kimono wearing, Japanese calligraphy, singing, sewing, hair arrangement and — wait for it — ninja star throwing.

Organising committee member Keiko Okumura says while they were optimistic the Alert Level would be lowered on Wednesday, the usual festival format requires a huge amount of preparation, including performers travelling from Dunedin.

If it had been cancelled, things would’ve got ‘‘a bit messy’’.

Running classes or workshops involving small groups will make the event easier to control, with some elements happening outdoors, Okumura says.

‘‘Normally we present Japanese culture and people come and watch, but this time they get to experience something.’’

The full schedule of sessions, which cost $5 a person, is posted on the society’s Facebook page.

There’ll also be the usual food stalls and a raffle, while a new feature this year is an arm wrestling competition with sections for men, women and children.

Okumura says if the event had not gone ahead today, it would’ve been postponed rather
than cancelled because it’s the main fundraiser for the society’s Japanese supplementary  school for children.