Our good friend Takako, head baker at The Graff Caff, invited us to a Japanese cultural festival at Tumbalong Park as she was performing in it. We’re always suckers for Japanese food so we were more than happy to attend.
Luckily we had some beautiful weather that day which made the event all the more enjoyable. This also meant the crowd was out in force! There was ample space for everyone to spread out so it felt busy but not congested. There was also plenty of seating in the form of floor mats however it would have been great to have more shade.
We were treated to a series of Japanese dances (traditional and contemporary), musical performances and plays on the large central stage that really amped up the atmosphere. It was all very well managed by the MC and we all learnt a thing or two about traditional Japanese culture!
The first stall we stopped at was Sydney Okinawan Club. Selling food, snacks and drinks from Okinawa, we were drawn to the line of Spam Onigiri.
The Spam Onigiri was a very cute item of food. It even had a smiley face on the nori! We didn’t expect much from it. I mean, what’s there to expect from rice and spam? Boy, were we surprised at just how tasty it was. They had brushed okonomiyaki sauce giving it just the right amount of umami to match the rice. We went back for seconds!
The Hiraya-Chi is an Okinawan-style okonomiyaki pancake. Served with soy sauce mixed with Japanese mayo, it was like a thin, crispy mashup of normal okonomiyaki and Chinese shallot pancake. Served fresh and hot, it was real delight to eat!
After the first round of food, we needed something to quench our thirst so we went to Matcha Matcha Cafe to get some Iced Matcha. The matcha blend was really smooth in this drink and there was just a hint of sweetness in it too. We went back for seconds of this, too. It was just so refreshing!
To go with our drink, we got a small serving of Yakisoba from Momiji. The quality of these noodles was really good. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the container was packed full of ingredients like pickled ginger, cabbage, beansprouts and meat. It was really tasty and great to share between the two of us.
Next we stopped by Thanks Mart to get ourselves some more food to try and decided on the Sticky Chicken Rice. This was different as it came with soy flour and brown sugar syrup with mushroom, lotus rood, chicken and egg. It was super tasty and the flavours well balanced. All in all, a pretty awesome dish.
At $1.50 for 2 pieces, we couldn’t look past the Fish Skewers. They were perfectly fried till golden brown and filled with fresh fish. There was also a huge section of onion in the skewers for more flavour. If we weren’t so full, we’d have gone back for more!
We noticed that the Shaved Ice was very popular so we decided to get a strawberry-flavoured one. It wasn’t too sweet at all and was perfect to round off our meal.
I decided to try out another type of shaved ice, this time from the Sydney Okinawan Club. This was a traditional version with red bean as the base flavour and mochi to add some texture. It wasn’t sweet either and I could definitely tell it was the healthier of the dessert options that day. I liked it a lot as it left me quite refreshed.
Above is dance group Mad Unity, comprising of over 100 dancers; young, old, inexperienced and veteran, dancing in unison on the main stage area.
The Matsuri Japan Festival 2016 was well-organised and full of energy. The stallholders and entertainment were of a very high standard and came together to make for an amazing experience. The good weather certainly helped and we can’t wait for the next one!