The Japanese Folk Dance group called Furusato Dancers perform a bon odori dance called Don Pan Bushi at the 2012 Japanese Cultural Fair. The group will be performing against this year.

The Japanese Folk Dance group called Furusato Dancers perform a bon odori dance called Don Pan Bushi at the 2012 Japanese Cultural Fair. The group will be performing against this year.

Fair highlights Japanese culture in Victoria

Sixteen years ago, the Japanese Cultural Fair started off as a small garage sale in the basement of St. Aidan's church.

Sixteen years ago, the Japanese Cultural Fair started off as a small garage sale in the basement of St. Aidan’s church on St. Aidan’s Street. It has since grown into a community-wide event celebrating Japanese-Canadian culture in Victoria.

Tsugio Kurushima, former president of the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society that hosts the event, said Victoria has a unique background when it comes to Japanese immigration, since it served as an entry point for asian immigrants.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during World War II, thousands of Japanese-Canadians were taken from their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps.

However, after they were released following the war, Kurushima said very few who originally lived in Victoria returned home.

“There was no established Japanese-Canadian community in Victoria. It’s all been recent transplants, people whose families didn’t grow up here,” said Kurushima, who moved to Victoria from Winnipeg in 1979. “There was no connection between people.”

However, with the formation of the society and the cultural fair, Kurushima said it has helped the roughly 2,000 to 3,000 Japanese-Canadians living in Greater Victoria reconnect with their roots.

The 16th annual cultural fair also allows the society to educate the community about its culture through traditional Japanese entertainment and displays, cuisine, kids’ activities, craft tables, cultural demonstrations and a silent auction.

There are a number of demonstrations including iaido, a martial arts discipline around the samurai sword and karate, as well as an anime presentation by Tsukin-Con, a popular anime conference at the University of Victoria.

“What we’re trying to do is not only do traditional or classical Japanese cultural demonstrations, but also more local stuff,” Kurushima said. “Hopefully (participants) will get an appreciation and more knowledge about Japanese culture.”

The cultural fair, a free family-friendly event, is on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Esquimalt Rec Centre (527 Fraser St).