While wandering around the neighborhood of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, he decided to wait for his girlfriend to get her hair done at a local salon on Saturday morning.

Amidst the crowd of people dressed in Japan’s traditional yukata and colorful cosplay costumes, the lively music, vibrant booths, and enticing aroma of various cuisines all beckoned him to step inside.

It was at that moment that he realized he had stumbled upon the Japan Vietnam Festival—an enchanting event for both Vietnamese and Japanese residents in Ho Chi Minh City.

Cosplayers are seen at the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Sabine from Germany and her friends were also among the festival-goers on Saturday.

She was in Ho Chi Minh City a few days before her working trip and stumbled upon the festival while strolling in the nearby area of her hotel, captivated by the event’s festive atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Thuy Vy, 24, traveled from Binh Chanh District to the venue early in the morning as she was immensely excited to join the fest.

Clad in her beloved cosplay ensemble, Vy became the center of attention, attracting admiration and numerous photo requests from fellow event-goers.

“I’m so happy,” Vy expressed. “This is my third time participating in this festival because I love Japan and have always wanted to learn more about the country, its people, and culture.”

A cosplayer buys maki sushi rolls from a booth at the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Uniting Hands—Moving Forward Together

Now in its ninth year, the Japan Vietnam Festival offers a diverse array of activities.

These activities include music performances, culinary booths showcasing both Vietnamese and Japanese delicacies, sports areas, exhibitions, sales booths, and informational kiosks about tourism, among other engaging attractions.

A kid plays in the snow area of the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

The two-day event is jointly held by the Japanese and Vietnamese sides under the theme ‘Cùng nắm chặt tay nhau – Từ giờ về sau’ (Hold Hands Tightly – From Now On).

The opening ceremony on Saturday morning was attended by former State President Truong Tan Sang, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang, Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Phan Van Mai, special advisor to the Japan-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Alliance and former secretary general of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party Tsutomu Takebe, and other distinguished guests.

Distinguished guests shake hands at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

During the opening ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida conveyed his wishes through a recorded video, hoping that the ninth Vietnam-Japan Festival would foster deeper exchanges between the people of Japan and Vietnam.

In his speech, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang expressed his confidence that this year’s Japan Vietnam Festival would witness significant participation from both nations’ citizens.

He emphasized that the festival provides diverse experiences related to the countries, including their people, art, cuisine, and traditional cultural treasures.

Furthermore, he highlighted that the event would continue to act as a bridge of friendship, fostering genuine connections and trust between the people of both countries.

Moreover, it would actively facilitate multifaceted cooperation and exchanges between Vietnam and Japan, thereby contributing to the enhancement of their comprehensive strategic partnership.

Coaches instruct a visitor to play baseball at the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre

Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Phan Van Mai emphasized the city’s earnest desire to uphold its role and commitment as a prominent contributor to Vietnam-Japan relations.

He also expressed the city’s aspiration to be a leading and trusted partner for Japanese localities.

Tsutomu Takebe, the honorary head of the festival’s organizing board, affirmed that the primary purpose of the Japan Vietnam Festival is to deepen mutual understanding between the two peoples regarding their respective traditional cultures.

This goal is accomplished through various activities such as product and brand showcases, the promotion of tourism and technology, as well as fostering sports, cultural, and artistic exchanges.

These activities contribute to further strengthening the friendly relationship and promoting development cooperation between Vietnam and Japan.

“We hope that the Japan Vietnam Festival will evolve into a cherished historical and traditional event shaped collaboratively by both the Vietnamese and Japanese communities, with a promising trajectory of continuous growth and development,” he stated.

A chef instructs visitors to make onigiri, a Japanese food made of compressed rice, at the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

A staff member instructs a visitor to play Japanese chess shogi at the 2024 Japan Vietnam Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, March 9, 2024. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

The first Vietnam – Japan Festival was organized in Ho Chi Minh City in 2013 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The seventh edition, originally scheduled for earlier dates, was repeatedly postponed until it finally took place in April 2021 due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 at the time.

The eighth edition of the festival, held last year, was a significant celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.

It attracted an impressive number of 485,000 festival-goers.

Over the course of two days, the festival unfolded at 23/9 Park, featuring approximately 150 booths showcasing the diverse offerings of both countries, including tourism, local specialties, cuisine, culture, education, music, sports, and technology.