Manchester celebrated both modern and traditional Japanese culture at a unique event last Sunday.
Doki Doki, which is Japanese for heart beating in excitement, brought together many different aspects of Japanese culture for the first time in Manchester.
The event held at Sugden Sports Centre, just off Oxford Road, was a real success with over 1,500 people in attendance.
There were lots of activities on offer - talks, demonstrations, parades and other events showcasing manga, anime, fashion, martial arts, film, music and other parts of Japanese culture.
Food stalls, retail and artist stands including calligraphy and origami were also on display.
There was even a Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter IV games tournament held at the nearby Kyoto Lounge venue.
Festival organiser Andrew said: “There is no other festival like this in the North West. We wanted something new and fresh. This inspired us to do the festival.”
Andrew explained that London and the south are the only places where Japanese Festivals take place.
There are some anime conventions held all over the country, but an event which celebrates all types of Japanese culture is sorely missed in the North West.
Japan Society North West (JSNW) normally hosts Japan Day, which celebrates traditional Japanese culture so the purpose of Doki Doki was to bring about both a traditional and a modern festival feeling to Manchester.
The main aim of the event was to bring an awareness of Japan to as many people as possible, as well as to help the Japanese Charities the festival supports.
The centre was buzzing with people and ran all day from 9am to 7pm, followed by an evening cosplay party at The Zoo club, from 9pm until 2am.
Special guest Akemi Solloway gave lectures on the Shinto religion and Japanese etiquette.
She said: “I am very happy to attend, especially as I can make an appeal for our new charity, Aid for Japan, which supports orphans after the Tsunami disaster.”
The numerous fundraising activities held throughout the day raised £1,000 for the Japan Red Cross Society and the Aid for Japan charity.
A Lolita fashion show also added some great colour to the festivities with girls displaying their vivid costumes and explaining the designs of their garments.
British 16-year-old J-Pop star, Beckii Cruel (aka Rebecca Flint) performed her first English single You Can’t Kiss Me at the festival, much to the entertainment of the audience.
She said: “This is one of the most enjoyable events I’ve ever done. I like having a smaller stage to perform on, it’s been absolutely fantastic. It’s not as hectic as London, so there’s a different atmosphere here that I’ve really enjoyed.”
Schoolgirl Beckii is a YouTube phenomenon and has built a massive fan base in Japan after she posted videos of herself singing and dancing along to pop videos.
Blackpool born Beckii also spoke about her love of Japanese culture and how she had always dreamed of visiting Japan, but never thought that she would actually be able to achieve it.
She added: “I think the feature of Japanese culture that I'd like to see become more popular though is the great respect the Japanese seem to have for each other. It makes a difference.”
Audiences were also treated to a captivating and atmospheric performance of solid beats from Taiko drummers.
JSNW committee member Graham Worth, 63, said: “Today has gone really well and it’s very well attended. We’ve gained a lot of new members so it has been a great success.”
Cosplay (short for costume play) was another great feature of the event as many of the festival goers dressed up in fantastically fun costumes especially for the occasion.
Mother of two, Sumie Kent, attended the event and dressed in a traditional kimono outfit. Sumie, who is originally from Hokkaido, Japan has lived in the UK for seven years.
She said: “This is a pretty good event. I know lots of people who want to wear Japanese costumes and this is a really great opportunity for them to do so.”
Gaming fan Lex Harrison got into the spirit of the festival and dressed up as the character Link from the classic video game The Legend of Zelda.
Lex, 18, from Blackburn, said: “It’s very warm and crowded, but a lot of fun. I even made my own costume for the event. I would definitely come again.”
Another highlight of the event was the screenings of anime films Redline and Summer Wars, which have not been released on DVD yet.
JSNW are hosting Japan Day next year and will alternate with Doki Doki each year after that, so this fantastic festival will be returning to Manchester in 2013.