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Houston Japan Festival 2012

Published April 6th, 2012

Every year, the Japan American Society of Houston hosts a Japan Festival in the center of Houston - Hermann Park. Over 25,000 people visit the festival annually. For an entire weekend, the festival grounds are packed with excitement, while continuous performances of Japanese music and the martial arts dominates nearby stages. The annual Japan Festival also provides a wide assortment of interest from local vendors and restaurants while festival volunteers perform in the Japanese garden. (Desc From their website)

I was excited as this was my first time documenting the events of such a vast even and it goes without saying, I had a blast.

I had no idea the 15 min drive would take us over an hour and the only parking I would find would be in a public parking garage of a nearby hospital. As my shooting day started, I quickly realized that the bright midday sun would wash all my colors, which is one of the reasons photographers flock this event, is vibrant colors. I had to underexpose my shots and use a speedlite (flash) to properly expose my subjects. Boy I was glad I had replaced the batteries and had a spare as I used all the juice they could offer, not to mention my flash overheated once as I was struggling to capture dynamic moments. I even looked funny as I had destroyed my jeans by kneeling, laying on the semi wet grass to compose my shots.

The Japan festival is an amazing event here in Houston. This year was no different. I hope I am able to capture a fraction of the essence of this beautiful day spent celebrating a nation's culture that has overcome many obstacles and every time, came back stronger. I know as I work for one of the biggest Japanese auto makers in the world and have witnessed their hard work and dedication first hand.

This is a two part series. The second part is at the link below:

First Stop: Organizer's Tent

Right besides the main stage was a tent setup that consisted of folks from the organizing committee. They were answering questions for all attendees while at the same time instructing and controlling the acts. This was one of my first stops where I was able to take a picture. Its only fair to post this as my first. Especially because I was able to get Japan in the image.

More to come. I hope you will enjoy this series as I take you along with my best moments captured.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/8.0 / 1/200 sec

Taiko Drums

This young lady belongs to the SGI Ikeda Ensemble Taiko group that performed this piece. This is one of the best drumming I have ever heard.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/11 / 1/320 sec

Japanese Folk Dance

This young man performed a traditional Japanese folk dance. His stride was powerful on the stage. Even though he was holding a court fan, it may as well been a Katana (Japanese Sword)

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/13 / 1/320 sec


Every year Evil Pastry Studio hosts a Cosplay contest in the Japan Houston Festival. Folks dress up like different anime, manga, or video game series characters and then they compete for a prize. This image has a very retro feel to it as he was dressed up like a sailor. As soon as he caught her hand, I knew the next moment was going to be a keeper. Was I wrong?

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 92mm / f/13 / 1/400 sec

I bow before you!

This young lady performed several dances on the stage but I could never capture the essence of the dance in the images, with her properly exposed, as she was the lead dancer. I guess I got lucky with this one, not only is she well lit, I like the way the court fan is back lit. The light passing through brought the tiny dragon details alive.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/11 / 1/1000 sec

Smack Down

On one side of the park, a stage hosted one dance after the other where I was for most of my afternoon. On the other side of the Herman park, another stage was setup that hosted different groups from all over Houston that displayed their Martial Arts Skills. I grew up watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies and was excited to see live action. I was able to catch one of the last shows.
What you see before you here is a grand master making his opponent eat dirt, in a very Jackie Chan'ish way. He was throwing his big opponent as if he was a Foosball. You can see the guy's reaction sitting at the back because he knows his turn is next. And guess who was next? HA!

  • March 30th, 2012
  • Nikon D7000
  • 40mm / f/11 / 1/40 sec

Paper Lanterns

How can a Japan Festival shoot be complete without including a shot of their famous paper lanterns. These were introduced in Japan somewhere around the 6th or 7th century by a Chinese prince who brought his tradition and culture to Japan. These pieces of art work are now commercially produced as decorations for gardens and walkways. Even though their production is commercialized, they play a very significant part in many cultural celebrations.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/5.6 / 1/500 sec

Die hard fan

She is who I would classify as a die hard fan. She was dressed in a lovely red kimono and had a red umbrella with a big smile as she enjoyed the presentations. Mind you this is in Houston heat and at mid day but that did not seem to bug her.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/5.6 / 1/800 sec

All in the air

Remember the girl from the image 'I bow before you', well this is her group and I was able to capture them all in action, in the air :)

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 22mm / f/11 / 1/1250 sec

Japanese Traditional Dance.

This girl was part of a dance act that consisted of two dancers. They moved with grace while working with the flower trays they had. The act was over before you'd know it, or so it would seem.
I was able to capture her gazing out into the distance which made for a very compelling image.

  • March 31st, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 80mm / f/5.3 / 1/1250 sec

Age with Grace

She, in my opinion, was the best dancer. She must have been atleast 60, but the elegance in her dance moves made the young dancers look like rookies, and I am not exaggerating. She performed two acts, one was part of group and the other was solo. And she stole the show.
I chose this image of hers to share with you because she has a very subtle expression on her face along with her hand gesture.

  • March 30th, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 105mm / f/13 / 1/60 sec

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