East meets West...port.
Two taiko drum performance groups from New York City and New Jersey brought the contagious rhythms, delicate melodies and spirit of celebration to Westport through music and dance. Other activities that are among the traditions of the 1,500-year-old observance included origami and games.
"Traditionally people go back to the villages of the birth of their ancestors and celebrate their ancestors," said Vernon Beck, president of the JSFC.
"In Japan these ceremonies might last for days," he said. "This is the ninth year at Jesup Green," Beck said, "and about the 20th year we've done a Bon Odori festival."
"I lived in Japan for many, many years," said Harold Gross of Westport, who comes to the festival every year. "I went to school there are I have a connection to the culture."
Stationed in Japan about 50 years ago in the army, Don Sanders of Westport has never stopped loving it.
"I go every year," he said. "I know Tokyo better than most Japanese do."
Sanders said he really likes coming to the festival on the Green. "I like taiko," he said. "I like the dancing, whatever singing they do. I'm just a total Japan-phile. I can't get enough of it."
"The society is generally people that are interested in the Japanese culture," said Nancy Beck, a third-generation Japanese-American who traveled to Japan for the first time only recently.
"We like to share the Japanese culture," she said of the JSFC, which has a membership of about 100 families from throughout the area.
"I did spend eight years in Japan and spent eight years learning the culture," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who was a news correspondent with CBS.
"Westport is a very international community as many of you know," he said, and is home to many families of Japanese heritage.
"The Japan Society has been a valuable representative of the Japanese culture in this county and I'm delighted to see it continue and prosper," Joseloff said.
The festival was also attended by Jun Ishihara, the cultural attache for the Japanese Consulate in New York City, which also serves Fairfield County.
"It is my pleasure to extend my very best wishes to Westport for such a wonderful festival," he said, noting that the landscape of the town reminds him of the countryside where he grew up in Japan.