Tokyo, much like the rest of Japan, is hot and humid in the summer. The high temperatures, however, are not enough to stop Tokyoites from having their fun. Countless events, small and large, take place every day in neighbourhoods across the capital. Many of them are organized by the various expat communities in Japan.
One of the many events I am looking forward to this summer is the African Heritage Festival at Hibiya Park. Organized by the African Heritage Committee, it is a two-day celebration of the culinary, musical and cultural diversity of Africa. The African Committee is an organization that has been promoting African culture to both the Japanese public and members of the diaspora since 2009.
Last year's event saw a high number of visitors participate in a variety of activities despite the rainy weather and high temperatures. Some of the highlights included an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, a drum workshop, concerts and dances.
My personal favourite, as a very dedicated coffee person, was the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The event involved lovely lady preparing and serving coffee the traditional way: first she roasted the beans, then she used a wooden mortar and pestle to grind them and finally she brewed them on a small stove, next to which some incense was burning for the duration of the ceremony.
The drum workshop looked just as interesting. The -mainly young Japanese- attendees seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely as they sat in a circle under a tent, following the instructions of the organizers and occasionally improvising.
The festival, however, wouldn't be complete without the food trucks! Several stalls with delicacies from several countries were there, serving unfamiliar dishes to the foodies. Unfortunately the term 'vegetarian' means nothing in the context of African food, so I, unlike the rest of my friends, had to get by with snack from a nearby konbini.
And since you are there already, why not take a look at the craft stalls? Paintings, wood carvings, hand made jewelry and colourful clothes are among the many treasures one can buy here. Last year I picked up some very pretty trinkets for my friends who love that kind of thing.
And of course let's not forget about the concerts. Last year musicians from several countries, Japan included, performed on stage. People could be seen dancing to their tunes all across the festival area despite the rain. I don't know much about this year's schedule but I'm hoping it will be just as much fun. And if we are to believe Weather Underground, it might even be sunny this time around!
Entrance to the festival is free. The park is easily accessible, with several stations within walking distance: Kasumigaseki, Sakuradamon, Hibiya and Yurakucho are all very close to the festival area. For those of you who haven't yet visited the Imperial Palace or the nearby areas of Tokyo Station and Ginza, this might be a good chance to do so!
Don't forget your umbrella, sunscreen and/or hat! The japanese summer is not kind to those who come unprepared!