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JEDDAH: A Saudi arts organization recently hosted a four-day cultural festival to showcase Japanese tradition, language, and art.

Art Jameel in collaboration with the Consulate General of Japan in Jeddah staged Hayy Matsuri, a cultural and educational community event and market, at the Red Sea port city’s Hayy Jameel complex.

Sara Al-Omran, deputy director of Art Jameel, said: “Art Jameel has the commitment to support artists and creative communities through contemporary and relevant projects such as Hayy Matsuri.

“Through developing this program with creatives across the region who are interested in Japanese arts and culture, we ensured Hayy Jameel remains for everyone and reaffirmed our core mission of cross-pollination between different creative endeavors.”

She noted that through the Hayy Matsuri program, visitors experienced performances, cosplay, food tastings, arts and crafts, languages, and knowledge exchange.

“This was a program developed by the creatives of this region who responded to an open call to participate in our inaugural festival,” Al-Omran added.

Speaking at the event, Shimmura Izuru, consul general of Japan in Jeddah, said: “The Kingdom has been experiencing a lot of changes across the vital fields and societies including cultural activities.

“This festival serves as an opportunity to learn the excellence of Japan and contribute to strengthening the bond through trust and friendship among both nations.

“There has been a social acceptance from the younger Saudi generation for our culture. I hope events like these will further enhance their interests and that several other activities can be included to promote Japanese culture.”

The program included tea-ceremony and origami demonstrations, Japanese calligraphy, flower arranging, musical cosplay and traditional dance performances, film screenings, authentic cuisine, arts and craft workshops, and anime.

A daily community market offered a taste of Japan inspired by traditions.

Satoe Bamofleh, founder of online Japanese language school Hanamru, was promoting courses to Arabic speakers.

“There has been a general increase in interest and demand for Japanese language skills by Saudi youngsters. Through this platform, I could reach out to many people and give them a chance to experience a new culture,” Bamofleh said.

Running alongside the festival, Hayy Matsuri: at the Cinema presented iconic and genre-defining films by world-renowned directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, author of poignant family chronicles and recipient of the Palme d’Or award at the 71st Cannes Film Festival where he built an intimate body of work, highlighting the mundane lives of ordinary people.

In addition, the program featured anime, a genre at the heart of Japanese film practices, presenting the work of acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Makoto Shinkai who emerged as one of anime’s leading visionary directors.

Festival audiences were introduced to his earlier work with the 2004 science fiction film “The Place Promised in Our Early Days,” and “5 Centimeters per Second” from 2007.

Zohra Ait El-Jamar, Hayy Cinema senior manager, told Arab News: “Cinema in general offers this window to the world which helps us better understand other cultural practices and differences. But it also helps us apprehend certain geographical contexts and be more understanding of shifting environments.

“Hayy Matsuri is a great opportunity to build this comprehension with Kore-eda films in particular, where his filmography touches the sensitive topic of family ties which is a universal subject.”

Hayy Matsuri’s movie program also included the 2021 Japanese-Saudi cultural collaboration “The Journey” directed by Kobun Shizuno, a critical fusion showcasing the rich culture of Saudi Arabia viewed through the stylings of Japanese animation.

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