November 3, I had the opportunity to visit Madang (마당 “open place”), a festival of zainichi Koreans (ethnic Koreans living in Japan), through a university excursion. It was not only my first time witnessing Korean culture up close, it was a chance to experience the celebration of cultural diversity in the otherwise so homogenous Japan.
The festival took place in Higashikujō, Kyoto, where a lot of minorities and especially citizens of Korean descent live. In the past, there were quite some incidents in the neighbourhood, but nowadays projects such as Madang aim for cultural exchange between the different ethnicities and the Japans through dance, music, food amongst others.
The integration Madang envisions, doesn’t limit itself to Korean and other ethnicities, but also includes disabled people and people with different sexualities. Both young and old are welcome at the festival, since a deeper connection between the generations is also one of its goals.
The festival started of with toddlers throwing little paper balls at a kusudama (an origami ball) which has a secret message hidden inside. It kind of reminds of a piñata, except that the children will not be able to feast on sweets.
This boy is a performer of pungmul nori (풍물놀이), a Korean spinning hat dance, which features in the video at the end of this blog.
In this photo, the janggu (장구), a traditional Korean drum, and the taiko (太鼓), a Japanese drum, are played simultaneously. Among the people playing the Korean janggu, there is also a Japanese woman, who already had a passion for this instrument from a young age.
This may be difficult to see, but for the first time, I witnessed ssireum (씨름), a Korean fighting sport which can be compared to the Japanese sumo wrestling. Both children and adults competed, in different groups of course.
Japan has a close relationship with Brazil, since most Japanese outside of Japan live in this Latin-American country. So, of course the Madang festival would not have been complete without some Afro-Brazilian samba. I can assure you that no one stood still while the Ilha Das Tartarugas band hit their drums.
As there was a large crowd, I lost sight of my professor, but he eventually appeared behind the huge sign he was holding, announcing the details of the after party.
Below, you can find a small compilation of some of the acts (sorry for my poor filming skills):