Japan Park Singapore: The day I won a Daruma
I was very lucky to enjoy a preview of Japan Park Singapore (JPSG) before it opens to public today! The fair, conveniently located at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre on 4-5 August 2018 is a one-stop destination for you to learn about Japan! The fair showcases Japan’s 47 prefectures through 6 zones – Wa-Shiok Gourmet Festa, Discover Japan, Lifestyle & Technology, Omakase Stage, Kids Sports and CharaExpo Mini.
It is organised by Amuse Entertainment Singapore, Bushiroad, organiser of CharaExpo, OJ Events of B2B event Food Japan, WAttention, a free paper publisher of Japanese culture and SOZO, creator of Anime Festival Asia.
We had a sneak preview of the performers who are performing over the weekend on the Omakase stage. From popular Japanese singers to dancers, the stage will be filled with fun activities.
Kawaii singer Kiwako Ashimine from Okinawa is performing in Singapore for the first time. Ever since she participated in The 8th Music Revolution Japan Final 2015, one of the largest music competitions in Japan organised by the Yamaha Group, she has been entertaining young generations with her bubbly pop music. Do you know she performed the theme song for video game developer giant Square Enix’s wildly popular game Grimms Notes?
We were greatly entertained by J-ROCK legends Sunplaza Nakano Kun and Papala Kawai. Both of them are veterans of the early wave of rock music in Japan. I really can’t tell that they are 58 years old from their energetic interactions!
We also had the rare chance to watch the live performance of Odori, Japanese traditional dance by Ukon Nishikawa and his team of dancers. From a family of respected Odori masters, Ukon Nishikawa led the leadership of the Nishikawa School, one of the leading authorities on traditional Japanese Dance.
WA-Shiok Gourmet Festa
What is an event about Japan without food? Obviously we stuffed our faces silly with glorious Japanese delights. The highlight was the ramen from Keisuke Ramen King. I tried their ramen previously in one of 13 their outlets littered around Singapore and was not impressed. However, I was slurping the bowl of hot piping ramen happily this time around. They created a special menu for Japan Park Singapore. Ah! The molten egg, the tender slices of Kagoshima black pork, mussels and flavorful broth! Burp!
One main course was not enough so I indulged in another bowl of roast beef don from Ginza Lion. The succulent beef is complemented by onsen egg and a secret ingredient - wasabi cream sauce. At first I looked at the creamy paste suspiciously so I took a small bite of the beef covered with the sauce. Then I had the revelation that it is a wasabi flavoured sauce with a fine balance of wasabi taste and light creamy texture.
Despite our full stomachs, we could not resist the tempting sausages from Teppei Shokudo. Freshly grilled sausages and beef - perfect end to a Friday's evening feast!
There are interesting booths where you can learn more about Japan and some prefectures and attractions featured. NHK, Japan public broadcaster, booth is interactive and we bumped into Domo (どーも くん, Domo-kun), the official mascot of NHK. I did not know the brown furry creature is the mascot of NHK - I always thought it was a prefecture or product's mascot. The funniest thing was we caught Domo rehearsing and struggling to get back into his resting area.
WAttention Japan curated a series of informative panels that share bite-size information about all 47 prefectures in Japan. Of course, I looked for Okinawa's panel first. I am proud to announce that I have visited about 30 prefectures in Japan. As I have not really explored the 30 prefectures in depth, I look forward to visiting more places in those prefectures, and the ultimate dream of conquering all 47!
There is a major photo opportunity with the torii gates at the entrance of the fair. Well, it is definitely not the legendary torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto - but the organisers tried their best.
Traditional Japanese games and a DARUMA
My favourite part of the fair was the traditional games corner. We spent some time in the humble booth - a time machine back to our childhood - as we played some games. I was not very good with the ‘paper-net-water game’ but it was indeed nostalgic.
How about throwing some rings? My friend managed to get 1 ring in while I failed miserably at this game.
Finally, guess what? I won the best prize of the lucky draw - a red shiny Daruma! The game assistants were so shocked when the tiny red ball rolled out of the 'lucky draw machine' after I turned it gently. I was also in disbelief and amusement when they handed me the gift. Actually Daruma and I have a history! I bought a Daruma at the famous Dazaifu Shrine in Fukuoka back in 2015. Before my trip to Kyushu that spring, I was busy preparing my application for a life-changing experience so I made a wish about that and painted one of its eyes. And a few months later, my wish came true! I received an email to congratulate me that I was selected to be a Global English teacher for Peace Boat 88th Voyage. The tradition is to color the Daruma's other eye after the wish is fulfilled and bring it back to the Shrine for a traditional burning ceremony. My friend actually helped me to bring that Daruma back to Dazaifu Shrine a year later. With great memories of that rather magical encounter, I skipped out of the fair victoriously with my new, improved, bigger Daruma. Looks like the second part of 2018 may be fantastic!
If you are a fan of Japan and have some free time this weekend, head down to Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Halls 403 and 404!
Unfortunately, as with all fun and nice things, you have to pay to visit the fair. There are many types of ticket you can purchase. Find out more here!