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Poland on the other side of the island: Polish festival in Takaoka

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On the last day of April and the first day of May, a Polish festival was held in the port city of Takaoka in Toyama prefecture. Previously similar events promoting Poland took place in Tokyo, however; this year, due to the tightening relationship between Poland and the Takaoka city government along with the local chamber of commerce, the festival was moved to the other end of the Honshu island. Toyama, owing to the abundant hydroelectric resources, is the leading industrial prefecture located on the Japan Sea coast. "So far, the economic and cultural exchange between Poland and Japan has been conducted mainly at the level of capital cities of the two countries but since 2010 we have been leading efforts to expand the cooperation to other remote regions, thus the idea of Takaoka as this year's festival venue" - revealed Mr. Piotr Suszycki, the President of the Polish Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the main coordinator of the festival. On September 26, 2012 the first ‘Polish House’ in Japan, a facility aimed at enhancing the Polish-Japanese cooperation in the economic, cultural and tourism exchange, was inaugurated by the Polish Ambassador Mr. Cyryl Kozaczewski. Another existing Polish House was launched on March 17 this year in Urasoe city of Okinawa.

The festival was partly funded by the Polish Trade & Investment Promotion Department, operating under the aegis of the Polish Embassy in Japan, whose staff prepared a wide range of information and promotional materials and ran stalls with traditional ceramic pots "Boleslawiec", hand-painted ceramics from the Opole city and souvenirs from the Polish Highlands. There were also stalls with amber and folk collection bags, so-called ‘Farbotki’. The residents of Takaoka had the opportunity to taste the Polish beer "Zamkowe" and other beers in four flavors, produced by a brewery in the Namysłów city of Poland. The only thing that failed was the weather. Neverthelss, luckily one could warm up himself with the ‘bigos’ (an old-style meat and sauerkraut hunters’ stew typical of Polish cuisine), fried ‘Krakowska’ sausage, and or ‘żurek’ - a traditional soup made of soured rye flour (in a way resembling Japanese miso soup). For dessert you could indulge yourself with the delicious Polish fudge called ‘krowki’.

Nevertheless, the most appealing were the Polish women. It was a delight to see the refine elegance of the wife of the Polish Ambassador, who was wearing a folk costume of the Cieszyn Silesia region. The young daughters of Mr. Ambassador were dressed in traditional clothing from the cities of Zakopane and Krakow and Ms. Hanna Kazahari, the representative of the "Forum Polonia TAMA in Japan", presented with innate grace the Łowicki costume - a traditional outfit from the Mazowsze area, which is considered the most beautiful and the most representative Polish outfit. As for the artistic part, Ms. Anna and Mr. Masahiro Kawakami of the non-profit organization "KRÓL Artists & Designers Hideout" carried from Tokyo almost an entire art gallery. The founders of the "KRÓL" set their private collection of Polish posters - the renowned works of Franciszek Starowieyski and Stasys Eidrigevicius, a collection of the oil paintings created by a Polish artist Karina Jancewicz-Ota, and the work of a talented young photographer, Keitaro Yonehara. "Songs from the Heart" were sang by a charming Polish singer, Shata QS, who has been performing in Japan since 2004.

The Polish Festival was organized in parallel with the Mikurumayama Matsuri, a traditional Japanese festival that has been held annually in the city of Takaoka for the last 400 years. Except for the citizens of Takaoka, the Mikurumayama Matsuri was attended by the mayors of the cities from the neighboring prefectures and by the specially invited Ambassador of Poland. "For me, this is my first festival in Japan and I was very eager to see how the Japanese celebrate their holidays in these regional cities and what the culture and history of the smaller regions in Japan is like. And now this great opportunity came about - there is a Polish House in Takaoka and a cooperative environment. All at once I could see how the Japanese celebrate their important events and what their perception of what we can offer to Japan as a country is, " - said the Ambassador Mr. Cyril Kozaczewski.
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