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Canberra Nara Candle Festival is a bit pointless, disappointing and generally bogan

By BimboGeek - 19 September 2010 37

Nara Ambassador

Saturday afternoon and evening was the Canberra Nara Candle Festival and I was pretty excited to see if it was going to be super pretty.

Unfortunately I work hard for the money and couldn’t get there before 5, so I missed a lot of the exciting stuff like mochi pounding and some of the performances.

I wanted to just explore and see what I expected to be a very beautiful festival, much like Floriade is a beautiful festival but actually I was a bit disappointed.

Arriving on my bike I started by following the sound of drums and finding the drumming workshop – two adults leading a big circle of children. I watched for a while and enjoyed the energy. I took a photo but almost felt bad since it’s full of children.

I moved on to the kite area. The sky was so full of kites that I’m surprised I managed to walk through the area without getting tangled. There was one kite abandoned in a tree but everyone else was doing a great job of avoiding each other. I was quite happy to see so many adults enjoying the kites and would have bought or borrowed one if the line wasn’t so tragically long!

Next was the wishing tree. Anyone could make a wish. I have something particular I would have liked to wish for but seeing the group of children writing on the coloured paper and pinning them to the branches I thought maybe it was best to leave them to their fun.

Continuing on my circuit I then passed a line of tents selling “Japanese inspired fashion.” There was one tent selling kimonos and other Japanese style ladies’ fashions but even then, I was left asking myself “Who goes to a cultural festival to buy clothes and accessories?” If all Nara means to you is a pretty new handbag then you, madam, are a bogan and I don’t want to know you!

Similarly, I was truly astonished at the long lines for the many food stands. One boasted “Japanese Sushi” and I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s any better than the stuff I eat every day at home (or occasionally at Mee’s or one of the malls) and others simply offered soft drinks, alcohol or poffertjes. Somebody even sold Japanese pancakes. Again, Ms. Bogan may think that culture and cuisine are the same thing but I was particularly unimpressed with the preoccupation with food considering that it was much too early for dinner.

Finally I found the other little pocket of culture. There was a stage set up and there was actually some good performance happening on the stage. I only saw the granddad j-pop group from Sydney and the teens following but I was pretty impressed with both. There were lots of parents encouraging their kids to enjoy the j-pop group. Unfortunately M-Flo weren’t available but these guys had a groove. The teenagers speaking/singing and the adults accompanying/dancing afterwards put on a very interesting performance of a Japanese creation myth. It was extraordinarily long so I didn’t catch all of it but it sounded great and I rather want a shakuhachi now.

The candles were eventually lit while all this was going on and I’ve sent some pictures of them during the lighting. They also lit up the trees red using some tacky LED lighting strips that are immediately obvious if you’re right next to them looking at the candles (and extremely unnecessary). There was some story about candle cups being sent from Nara or something but I’m not entirely sure what it was.

I didn’t have a problem with the festival exactly, but a lot of community events are genuinely suited to all ages (except the really rebellious teenagers who are determined not to have fun) that I as surprised to feel like I had crashed a five year old’s birthday party.

My final question is “why doesn’t Nara Park have cherry trees?” Honestly, it’s the Canberra spring festival and the Nara Park doesn’t have any sakura. Even ume blossoms would have been lovely! Apparently it’s Japanese because there’s a pagoda.

I’m glad I went because I’ve never been before and I don’t think I’ll have a chance to go again, but I can’t say it satisfied anything other than my curiosity.

What’s Your opinion?

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37 Responses to
Canberra Nara Candle Festival is a bit pointless, disappointing and generally bogan
Marvin_78 10:11 am 20 Sep 10

I have wanted to go to the Nara Candle Festival for a couple of years now and finally made it on Saturday… I think the concept is wonderful.

But I have to say that I was disappointed also.

I was looking forward to sampling delicious food (culture and food go hand in hand as far as I am concerned); however the huge lines only inspired me go into the City for dinner.

Speaking as someone who plans events, in my opinion it was not organised well.

Perhaps I was there too late (530pm), but even with that in mind I think I will give it a miss next year and book a table at Iori for dinner instead.

Fiona 10:07 am 20 Sep 10

aww you missed the ninjas.

Bane 9:15 am 20 Sep 10

BimboGeek said :

I’m still not sure why you guys are talking about food. I’m pretty sure I wrote about other things.

Yes, but the thing you said about food was particularly redunkulous…and then you insulted the first person who called you out on it

neanderthalsis 9:15 am 20 Sep 10

Following on from the cultural experiences of Bimbogeek, Mrs Neanderthalsis and I went to the Thai Embassy for the Thai food and Cultural Festival on Sunday.

We arrived at around lunch time to find a seething mass of people out enjoying the food, dance, song and sunshine in the embassy grounds. A number of Thai restaurants had set up marquees and were selling their finest, competing against the food cooked by the staff from the Thai Embassy.

The food was good, relatively cheap even though most of it was standard Thai restaurant fair, not the Chang Mai food stall sort of cuisine. We did have some fantastic beef massaman curry and fried fish balls that were quite tasty. But I think the best food of the day came form the Thai Embassy staff with their “floral savoury snack” (I don’t know what it was, but it tasted rather good), Thai pancakes and durian and coconut sticky rice that was to die for.

They had a couple of Thai chefs running cooking demonstrations, a number of Thai dance groups doing traditional dances and even a Thai pop group singing the latest Thai hits.

It was a beautiful spring afternoon combined with good food and entertainment.

BimboGeek 8:40 am 20 Sep 10

My mum’s trying to monitor my internet access, but Johnboy made me write an article about the Nara festival! What’s a girl to do when she has a crush on a blogger?

I’m still not sure why you guys are talking about food. I’m pretty sure I wrote about other things. What about someone telling me where I can get a Japanese flute?

arescarti42 8:35 am 20 Sep 10

BimboGeek said :

@kevn You sound fat.

Like I said, it wasn’t dinner time.

Must agree with kevn on this one, if you refuse to accept food as part of another country’s culture, then you are missing out on a LOT of culture.

kevn 7:43 am 20 Sep 10

BimboGeek said :

@kevn You sound fat.

Like I said, it wasn’t dinner time.

Yes. 65 kegs of fat.

You sound like a kid who’s parents won’t let them eat outside of allotted mealtimes. Unfortunately, it seems your parents forgot to monitor your internet access to avoid you making ignorant posts.

You 2:37 am 20 Sep 10


deye 1:47 am 20 Sep 10

The red LED lights were a bit much, especially right next to the candles. Previous years have seen multiple colours and placement further away. There were also less candles this year, the metal cut out ones were missing. Still it was okay. I see no problem with the earlier part of the day being mainly for the kids, it’s a good time to get them interested in other cultures.

You can see my photos at

lindilou 1:10 am 20 Sep 10


Did do any research about the Canberra-Nara relationship or about Nara Park?

You asked “why are there no cherry trees?” Well, there are at least a dozen cherry blossoms at Nara Park. They were donated by Nara Government as a gift to Canberra. My friends and I go there in late August/early September to have a picnic under the cherry blossoms, which is an event called “Hanami” or flower viewing. It’s a pretty nice and relaxing thing to do. Plus, the cherry blossoms are beautiful! Check the link for a photo from last year:

Food is not just apart of culture, it’s a pretty big part! Festivals in Japan have a REALLY LONG street with food stalls and are always packed.I didn’t go to the Nara Festival this year because I’m in Japan, but they usually have Yakisoba (Fried Noodles), Takoyaki (Octopus Balls), Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancakes), Japanese sweets (such as Mochi and Daifuku) etc for sale. Generally, the food is pretty good! Just wish they have a couple of more shalls. Of course, I find it a bit annoying that they bring something non-Japanese like Poffertjes. I think that it shouldn’t be allowed since it’s a Japanese cultural festival, to be honest.

I also agree about the stand selling Yutakas. People should be buying them beforehand and not there on the day and then changing into them. Overall, the people usually wearing them are Japanese people anyways.

From the looks of things, this year should’ve been good. They managed to get a traditional Yasakoi dance group from Sapporo (I think) and the choir from the Nara University(-affiliated) High School to come all the way here. As well as, the usual Mochi pounding and the calligraphy demostrations (done by a Japanese master of calligraphy living in Sydney) and of course the candles! I wish I could’ve gone this year, but I’m somewhere better right now. 😛

Mr Waffle 11:40 pm 19 Sep 10

“Again, Ms. Bogan may think that culture and cuisine are the same thing but I was particularly unimpressed with the preoccupation with food considering that it was much too early for dinner.”

I must’ve gone to the wrong festivals in Japan then, because my stomach was ready to burst by the end of the first street lined with food carts at the festivals I went to. I can’t think of a festival that DIDN’T have food, and a lot of it.

Report sounds like a “I know Japanese music like M-Flo so I’m obviously an expert at Japanese culture and this doesn’t live up to my haughty-tauty standards”. Though I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything better when Canberrans are concerned…

I didn’t get a chance to go this year, but I enjoyed myself last year. But then, I was there with friends and just out for a good time, not a chance to act snobby towards the unwashed bogan masses. Keep sipping that poser double cappuccino, dear (or in this case, that super kawaii Ramune).

sepi 10:13 pm 19 Sep 10

It sounds ok to me – what would you have liked them to have?

And if there were long lines for the food then people wanted to have food there.

BimboGeek 9:59 pm 19 Sep 10

@kevn You sound fat.

Like I said, it wasn’t dinner time.

kevn 9:33 pm 19 Sep 10


Cuisine doesn’t contribute to culture? Are you kidding?

A nation’s cuisine is a building block of its culture, and there is no more where this is more true than Japan. Those Japanese pancakes you so specifically single out for offending your sensibilities? Okonomiyaki is a huge part of Kansai area food culture…Nara being part of Kansai. Sure, Okonomiyaki is generally more of an Osaka thing (explaining why Osaka is the only city in Japan with more than one fat person), but that’s not really the point.

Festivals like this are designed to open your mind, but if you’re so closed to the definition of culture, I don’t think you’ll ever be open to the details of one.

majorLazer 9:29 pm 19 Sep 10

I agree with you fully. I went there at about 5 as well and was utterly disappointed with what they had to offer. As you have said It was a kiddies show and the only good thing I got out of it was the show on the stage 🙂
What I really felt bad about the entire show was that being a cultural event and promotion of Japanese culture, the main flock of people were more towards the Food and Clothing rather than the ethnic events such as the drums, kites($10!!!!) and the mochi pounding. I feel there could have been so much more on offer.

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