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Third Annual Japanese Festival Held Downtown

Third Annual Japanese Festival Held Downtown

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Keith McCord Reporting Utah's Japanese community celebrated on Saturday. A section of 100 South in downtown Salt Lake was packed with people for the third annual Nihon Matsuri Festival.

The block between 200 and 300 West was wall-to-wall people today. The Nihon Matsuri--or "Japan Festival"-- celebrates the Japanese history and culture in Utah, and today's festival had special meaning.

From the sounds of Taiko drummer Kenny Endo and his ensemble, to trying traditional Japanese food, today's Nihon Matsuri had something for everyone.

Jan Aramaki, festival chair, said, "We're sharing our Japanese culture with the community. We have arts and food and entertainment, historical exhibits."

There is a lot of history on the street because long before the Salt Palace existed, the area was known as "Japantown," the hub of the Japanese community, with stores, restaurants and shops.

"But it was a very thriving area. And such as myself, I have very fond memories of that block," Aramaki said.

For the past several years, members of the Japanese Community Preservation Committee have worked to preserve and restore what remains of the Japantown area.

Raymond Uno, president of the Japanese Community Preservation Committee, said, "So we've been working really hard to try to see if there is some way we can interest the Japanese community to get behind this project we have and the vision we have of kind of restoring Japantown."

Today, two steps were taken in that direction: One section of first south now has a new name, "Japantown Street," and a Japanese garden has been created and dedicated.

"Well it's a milestone, because we started off with nothing, and now we have a street name change and a garden, to show that we've made some progress. And the hope is that's the beginning of something that will unfold into something much, much bigger," Uno said.

The festival also included martial arts demonstrations, Japanese doll displays, a tea ceremony, and somebody won a free round-trip plane ticket to Japan.

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