Experience the culture of Japan without leaving Arizona this weekend at Phoenix’s Heritage and Science Park for the 30th annual Matsuri Festival of Japan. The two-day celebration encompasses everything Japanese, from cuisine to taiko drumming.

Before making your way downtown, here are a few highlights of the festival.

If you’re down to dress up in Japanese attire, participate in the Awa Odori and Mikishi Parade. If kimonos aren’t for you, head to the Asahi Beer Garden and introduce your taste buds to Japanese beer and any of the three premium sakes they’ll be serving.

If you’ve got a competitive edge, you and your child can sign up in the Ramune (carbonated soft drink) Drinking Contest. Or just be inspired to get your karate chop on as you witness performances of martial arts.

While the presence of Japanese culture flows throughout the event, the centralized theme of this year’s Matsuri Festival is the Kazari, a decorative paper lantern often seen in Japan.

“For three decades we’ve drawn attention to Japanese traditions, old and new. As the phoenix is a symbol of renewal and Kazari of light, through Matsuri we aim to illuminate Japanese culture in the Valley and to carry on the traditions of Japan that we love so much,” says event organizer Ted Namba in a press release.

Attendess can also enjoy local Japanese vendors, Bonsai displays, Asian cuisine, and local and internationally renowned performing arts groups.

One of the entertainers on the bill will be Tokyo-born, New Zealand-raised pop singer Kat McDowell, who is predicted to add a contemporary and vibrant component to the celebration.

If you go

What: 30th annual Matsuri: A Festival of Japan

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23

Where: Heritage and Science Park, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix

Cost: Free admission

Information: (602) 262-5029 or AZmatsuri.org

• Cissy, a junior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for GetOut. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or tribintern@evtrib.com.

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