Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Natsumatsuri serving up a taste of authentic Japan

Kazuhiko Hashimoto, at right, will be back at this year’s Tampa Natsumasuri, offering calligraphy demonstrations.

Publicity photo

Kazuhiko Hashimoto, at right, will be back at this year’s Tampa Natsumasuri, offering calligraphy demonstrations.

Scooping a goldfish out of a pool with a paddle made of thin paper isn't easy, but it's one of Bahia Simons-Lane's favorite natsumatsuri games.

"I wouldn't say I'm good at it. I've only caught one or two," said Simons-Lane, 32, a graduate student and employee at Florida International University. "But I like to play."

She'll get her chance again on Saturday as she travels northwest for the ninth annual Tampa Natsumasuri — a local take on the traditional Japanese summer festival.

John McGee IV founded the festival with a friend when he returned from teaching English in small town of 5,000 as a part of the JET Program.

"We kind of missed the culture," said McGee, 37, a environmental scientist for Hillsborough County Department of Public Works. "The festival is really about the community getting together and having a good time."

Traditionally, people dress up in their yukata and jimbe (lightweight historic Japanese clothing) and go to the festival to play games, eat treats, buy trinkets and watch the fireworks. It's a community bazaar aimed at besting the doldrums of summer.

McGee loved attending these festivals in the year he, his wife and son lived in Japan, but they never imagined they'd be putting one on for the public.

"The first year it was under a shelter at Lowry Park and about 100 people showed up," said McGee. "I was wondering where they all came from. You never see these people."

Every year, the participation grows. A few years back it got too large for park shelter and moved around before landing at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Tampa.

"It's a covered pavilion, so that helps with the summer time heat," McGee laughed. "And the parking is free."

A host of volunteers come together to bring the games, food and crafts with an authentic Japanese feel. ­Renny's Oki Doki food truck has become a crowd favorite.

Still the festival remains intimate. Last year's crowd topped out at 500, McGee said. This year, he's hoping to grow it even larger to bring it as close to a traditional summer festival as possible.

"We'd love to have it at night," he said. "Right now, what we need most is people. People to volunteer to host games and people to come out and enjoy the festival."

JETAA, the alumni association for teachers from the JET Program, is fully behind making Tampa's Natsumatsuri a fixture for years to come.

Simons-Lane is the president of the organization's Florida chapter and she plans to come up from Miami Saturday to serve, Coffee Jelly, a sweet coffee-flavored gelatin snack served with half and half and whipped cream.

"There are not lot of ways for people to experience Japanese culture in Florida," she explained. "In Japan, every little town has its own summer festival. Trying to recreate it here helps people who are from Japan relive that experience and shows people who never have been or never will go there what it's like."

Tampa Natsumatsuri

The Tampa Natsumatsuri kicks off at 9 a.m. in the pavilion at Christ the King Catholic Church, 821 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. Vendors will have games and food at the free to enter festival until the party ends at noon. For details, see meetup.com/japanese-571.

Tampa Natsumatsuri serving up a taste of authentic Japan 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 8:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Brad Culpepper makes it to final 3 on Survivor, but jury picks Sarah

    The Feed

    UPDATE, WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Tampa's Brad Culpepper make it to the final 3 on Survivor, but jurors chose Sarah as the winner of the $1 million.

    Original report follows:

    "The Tables Have Turned" - Brad Culpepper, Tai Trang and Hali Ford on the fourth episode of SURVIVOR: Game Changers on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment
  2. Pasco Events for May 26-June 1

    Events

    26 Friday

    Line dancing: 10 to 11 a.m. $3. CARES Rao Musunuru M.D. Enrichment Center, 12417 Clock Tower Parkway, Hudson. (727) 863-6868. caresfl.org.

  3. Our 'Burning Love' for Kelly Preston couldn't save this 1987 movie

    Blogs

    The success of parody movies really took off in the '80s with classics like Airplane, Spaceballs and the Naked Gun series. With so many spoofs, many flew under the radar like Love At Stake, starring (growling noises) a young Kelly Preston. For Kelly and maybe even Doctor and the Medics we …

  4. Graco recalls car seats; webbing may not hold child in crash

    Public Safety

    Graco Children's Products is recalling more than 25,000 car seats because the harness webbing can break in a crash and may not keep children restrained.

    Graco has recalled eight different car seat models.
  5. Plan your weekend: Memorial Day, Sunset Music Fest, comic Pablo Francisco, sci-fi writer Jeff VanderMeer

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Holiday

    Memorial Day: Monday is the day to honor those who died serving their country, and the Bay Pines VA Memorial Day Ceremony will have Fox 13 anchor Alcides Segui as emcee, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and musical performances starting at 10 a.m. at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. …

    GULF SHORES, AL - MAY 20:  Diplo of Major Lazer performs at the Surf Stage during 2017 Hangout Music Festival on May 20, 2017 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Hangout Music Festival) 700050769