Canberra – Nara Candle Festival

Australia’s Capital, Canberra, hosts an annual festival of Japanese culture at the Nara Park on the lake foreshore. Canberra has ‘twin’ status with Nara city in Japan (near Kyoto Prefecture) and the Nara Candle Festival celebrates this link.

Woman in Japanese kimono

Woman in Japanese kimono

In addition to the amazing cuisine, there were demonstrations of traditional Japanese dance, Sumo martial arts and floral displays.

Japanese flower display

Japanese flower display

You could try your hand at caligraphy – and a large banner dedicated to peace was laid out with great care.

Japanese Caligraphy

Japanese Caligraphy

The high point following speeches from the Australia-Japan Society and the Japanese Ambassador was the lighting of the candles. Many had taken up positions on the foreshore hoping to see candles placed in the lake, but the central attraction was the massed candles at the Japanese shrine in Nara Park

Nara Candle Festival

Nara Candle Festival

There was an excellent turnout from several thousand Canberrans who made the most of the wonderful warm evening to enjoy this cultural event. Many wore traditional Japanese dress as part of the occasion and the Australia-Japan Friendship Society and many other community groups were present.

Nara Candle Festival in Canberra

Nara Candle Festival in Canberra

There were stalls for Japanese and Australian food with lengthy queues for rare treats, demonstrations of caligraphy and origami. The kids events were very well organised and there was a relaxed atmosphere all round. The Sumo demonstration attracted a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

But for me the highlights were the candle lighting and the dance troupes – which were excellent as were the live music entertainers. The organisers would have been very happy with the size and composition of the crowd – and anyone who spoke Japanese could be heard practicing their linguistic skills with members of the Canberra Japanese community.

Japanese dancers

Japanese dancers

Japanese dancers

Japanese dancers

The sunset was stunning and as the sun went down the surrounding trees were lit by coloured lights which transformed the scene into an other-worldly space. The Nara Candle Festival is just one of the many cultural events for which Canberra is known.
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Canberra – warming up with its International Curry Festival

This Winter weekend (18-19 July) saw Canberrans turn out in force to warm themselves over a nice hot curry prepared by skilled chefs from all over South and Southeast Asia. The Canberra International Curry Festival left the air heavy with spices so your mouth was watering even before you came across the stalls in the Garema Place pedestrian precinct.

Canberra International Curry Festival

Canberra International Curry Festival

But it’s not just about the food – though who could forget the scent of cardamom and cumin and saffron – it is a festival that also celebrates the music of our multicultural heritage.

Canberra International Curry Festival

Canberra International Curry Festival

Colourful dancers wove their magic for the crowd showing such commitment to their craft that even their hands and facial expressions communicated the dance moves just as much as their feet and movements and swirling traditional costumes.

Canberra International Curry Festival

Canberra International Curry Festival

Every week there is something to see in Canberra even in the coldest winter months. If you are here around the middle of the year, keep an eye out on the What’s On calendars and you are sure to find something!