Resembling an anime character, Jonathan Diaz’s life dream is to one day visit Japan and wear his latest cosplay costume in the streets of Tokyo.
He enjoys the culture and cosplay, of course. Cosplay is a performance art in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories representing characters.
“It’s exotic,” he said. “It’s different from what we have here. I gave it a try. They are open.”
For now, he didn’t have to travel far to experience the culture as he attended the Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden Winter Festival on Sunday at Watson Island.
“There are authentic things here,” he said. “I enjoy it.”
Like Diaz, Zarivett Trinidad wore a costume of Link from the Legend of Zelda video game.
“I have a thing for other cultures,” he said. “I fell for Japan because it is something about it because they are peaceful. Cosplay gave me a new freedom to not be me for a day. If I don’t want to be me, I can just put on a wig and be Link for a day.”
Kiyoshi Ichimura, founder of Ricoh Co., in Japan, began the one-acre Ichimura Miami-Japan Garden more than 50 years ago. It is overseen by the nonprofit Friends of the Japanese Garden.
It was the first time the Consul General of Japan Ken Okaniwa visited the garden. He said there are close to 1,000 Japanese living in Miami with more than 9,000 in the state.
“Japan is the largest investor in Florida in terms of property, equipment and facility larger than any other country in the world,” he said.
Sonoko Machado Okazaki visited from Fort Lauderdale. She hasn’t been back to her home country in about two years.
“I feel like I am in Japan,” she said. “This takes me back.”
The winter festival also celebrated the Oshogatsu, which translates to ‘new year.’
During the new year’s celebration, Japanese eat a special selection of dishes, including a soup of mochi (rice cake), which sold out at the event.
At the event, there were several activities, including Taiko drummers, a cosplay costume contest, karate demonstrations and traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the first in more than 20 years.
Those who attended also had a chance to practice Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement.
Mieko Kubota, has practiced Ikebana for 60 years, and says it is like “meditation” to her.
“Tea ceremony, Ikebana, karate, calligraphy have the same goal, which is harmony with nature and people, respect, purity and tranquility,” she said.
For more information, visit friendsofjapanesegarden.com.