The Caribbean’s best-known cultural identity – carnival – featured in the unlikeliest of places recently – in Japan.
The inaugural Japan Caribbean Carnival was hailed as a huge success by the thousands who attended.
From September 13-17, participants were treated to tours and parties, and on September 18, the annual Soca in Japan events ended in a Trinidad and Tobago-style parade of the bands at the Moraba Twin Circuit race track in Chiba Prefecture.
While soca events, including parties, boat rides and J’ouvert have been celebrated for years in Japan, this was the first time participants were able to follow a big music truck.
Soca music has been popular there for years, prompting the rise of many Japanese steel bands, soca DJs, dancers and dance classes, and Caribbean-themed parties in major cities like Tokyo and Kobe.
In an unrelated event, there was also a pan festival in Kobe Prefecture where Trinis and Japanese locals were serenaded by the Fantastics Sukiyaki Steel Orchestra at the Kobe Steelpan Carnival.
Organising a parade of the bands-style event has always been a dream of Soca in Japan organiser Kegon Toussaint and his team. Toussaint thanked colleagues, comprised of Trinbagonian expats and Japanese locals, for their dedication in executing this vision.
He said: “Thank you to everyone who came out this weekend. It was truly unbelievable and a lot of hard work by the team. Our culture is powerful. Next year can only get bigger and better.”
What originally started as a weekend of soca events in Tokyo, has evolved into a week-long experience attracting soca and carnival lovers from all over the world. Participants in the Soca in Japan weekend were able to experience a unique cross culture of Japan and the Caribbean, attending soca parties dressed as their favourite anime characters, visiting shrines and temples in the Tokyo area, viewing a traditional Sumo wrestling match and enjoying a traditional J’ouvert party.
Soca artistes Nailah Blackman, Mical Teja and Jadel were all there. The experience climaxed with the parade on September 18, a Japanese national holiday known as Respect for the Aged Day. The weekend line-up of events was all sold out.
The parade, of about 200 masqueraders, was small but diverse and, above all, enthusiastic, and participants coped brilliantly with Japan’s notoriously brutal summer heat and humidity. Travellers from Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, and US citizens with Caribbean backgrounds all attended, proudly displaying their respective flags.