Photo: j-fest.org
J-FEST is an annual festival of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture held in Moscow, Russia. It is the biggest Japanese culture festival in Russia, as well as one of the most popular events among local anime and manga fans.

J-FEST was founded in 2009 at the Japanese Pop Culture Festival. Its main goal was to promote cultural diplomacy and showcase the contemporary popular culture of Japan. One of the main people behind the event was Takamasa Sakurai, a Japanese popular culture and anime expert and a strong proponent for the promotion of Japanese anime, fashion and music to a global audience as a means of cultural exchange. At the time, Sakurai worked for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sakurai personally came to Moscow to participate in the festival and brought along Misako Aoki, a Japanese model and the President of the Japan Lolita Association for lolita fashion. That year, she was appointed as a “Kawaii Ambassador” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the Kawaii Ambassador program initiated by Sakurai.

The first Japanese Pop Culture Festival had free admission because the organizers weren’t sure if anyone would be interested at all, let alone willing to pay for the ticket. As it turned out, attendance was huge, and it was decided to hold the event every year. Between 2010 and 2016, admission has been paid, partly because of the limited venue capacity and partly in order to make the festival self-sufficient.

Since 2011, J-FEST has been known under its current name. The event is co-organized by the Embassy of Japan in Russia and Japan Art Rainbow, an organization that promotes Japanese culture in Russia. Its sponsors and supporters include the government of Moscow and a number of Japanese companies.

According to the organizers, J-FEST is Russia’s largest platform that showcases the latest trends in Japanese pop culture, as well as one of the most important events in the field of cultural exchange between Japan and Russia. Its program encompasses various aspects of popular culture including art, technology, fashion, music, gaming, films and animation, traditions, cuisine, literature, and more.

J-FEST offers a rich and diverse programming that includes performances on the main stage (traditional and contemporary dance, Taiko – Japanese percussion performance, pageants), lectures, film screenings, workshops and demonstrations (dance, traditional musical instruments, origami, calligraphy, and more), concerts, martial art demonstrations, traditional games (go, shogi, mahjong, kendama), and other activities for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Originally held in the fall, the festival was moved to the spring in 2016. Since 2017, it has been an open-air summer event modeled after Natsu Matsuri (traditional festivals celebrating Japanese culture).

In 2020, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Photo: Nikolay Zharov




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