Japan House London at the Great Exhibition Road Festival


Japan House London is joining neighbouring cultural institutions in South Kensington to take part in The Great Exhibition Road Festival 2023.

The Great Exhibition Road Festival is an annual celebration of science and the arts, taking place each summer in South Kensington. This year’s festival celebrates the power of awe and wonder, with a weekend of free events for all ages.

This year, Japan House London will host two activities aimed at inspiring children through the wonder of the seasons and natural elements, and their influence on Japanese cultures.

Two types of kimono, inspired by nature

Princes Gardens, South Kensington, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June, 12.00-18.00

(A quiet hour for neurodiverse families will take place on Sunday from 11:00-12:00)

In the Children’s Zone at this year’s Great Exhibition Road Festival, come and discover two different types of kimono, uchikake and yukata, and find out how their designs are inspired by nature.

Uchikake are a type of outer kimono usually worn by a bride on her wedding day. They are worn as the very top layer, above other garments, like a coat, and the images and patterns that decorate them are often inspired by the natural world and carry particular meanings. In contrast, yukata are lightweight, casual and often worn to festivals in the summer. They are tied by a simple obi or sash and are much easier to put on than a more formal kimono, which usually requires a professional dresser.

With yukata and happi (festival jackets) kindly provided by the Japan Society, children under 12 will be able to try on these items themselves, with guidance from Japan House London staff and a space to take photos for friends and family.

At the design table, children can learn about the meanings behind the natural elements that inspire the patterns of an uchikake and have a go at colouring one. They can also take it a step further and have a go at designing their own uchikake and enter our design competition which will be judged by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Winners will be awarded their very own happi as well as some tasty Japanese sweets.

Illustrated Storytelling from Japan

Sunday 18 June, 15.45 and 17.15

Kamishibai, ‘paper theatre,’ is style of storytelling from Japan, which started in the 1920s. On the Family Stage at Great Exhibition Road Festival, Haruka Kuroda’s mesmerizing kamishibai performance will bring to life the Japanese story of Tanabata.

Tanabata is a Japanese festival celebrated each summer, centred around the story of two stars who can only meet once a year. This year, this beautiful tale of friendship set amongst the stars is retold using kamishibai, with two performances taking place on Sunday. Blending words, pictures, and music, this is a unique and charming theatrical experience for children and their families.