The Esplanade website promised much for this event.
“The matsuri is a Japanese communal festival that is typically held during summer, in celebration of an event. Encompassing a wide variety of performances, games, and Japanese street snacks, it symbolises the community’s unity as a whole and its harmony with the gods. With more than seven food and games stalls, Super Japan Matsuri by WAttention recreates this uniquely Japanese experience that the whole family can enjoy. Satiate your hunger with a range of popular snacks such as the takoyaki (grilled octopus ball), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), and kushimono (skewered food); or have fun playing yo-yo tsuri (yo-yo balloon fishing) and senbonbiki (lucky string game).
Look forward to this food and games extravaganza that is perfect for a family outing!”
Certainly sounded fun, so our team was really quite looking forward to an authentic Japanese experience on our way to the Esplande. But what we got was a nightmare. Why? Our reasons below.
1. Judging from the first-day crowds, Super Japan Matsuri looks like a hit. But it isn’t.
It’s too small to be super or a festival, and the organisers should have kept this indoors (as the promo photos suggested) – and there are rival Japan expos throughout the year that are much more fun to attend. Though, to be fair, this one’s free entry.
Every stall had at least a queue of at least 30-40 folks, and movement was minimal – which meant that the stifling heatwave we’ve been having just felt worse. The food is good, but after waiting so long in the heat, you will slip into a disinterested snooze – if what you were queueing for hasn’t already sold out.
2. Super Japan Matsuri ticks most boxes, but as soon as you expect more, if just gives up – early.
Food stalls were either sold out really quickly, or really, really slow in food prep. The first of three days started at 5pm. By 630pm, delicious foods like Japanese buffalo wings and red sake sangria were selling out fast – well ahead of the official 10pm closing time.
3. The games are surprisingly dull, but not without merit.
We were walking around expecting a separate section for the games, only to realise it comprised of a small section no larger than the hall of a four-room HDB flat – and the quality of the games looked more like a pasar-malam fun fair than the extravaganza promised.
Nothing against traditional Japanese games – like yoyo-tsuri (fishing balloons from a tub of water), shateki (shooting objects on a display), katanuki (carving tiny shapes out of candy with a needle), senbonbiki (Japanese tikam-tikam) – but these are really not much fun in Singapore’s humidity.
The good news is: the young children in your household will probably disagree.
4. This Japan fair does the whole family and friends outing thing. But it’s not cool, or much fun.
Adding to the pasar malam theme was the fact that the selection of food stores was far more limited than expected – its just nine booths frantically doing food prep for the long queues – and all the stalls are basically from Japanese restaurants already based here, serving fare they already normally have on their menu! What’s so special about that?
5. No information from organisers at all
You could get lost in the sweaty crowd for hours without knowing what was going on – queues didn’t move and there was no idea before you reached any stalls if they were gonna run out of grub.
In a nutshell, definitely an event to miss.
(Update: The organisers emailed us this below today. You decide if you want to risk heading down!)
Thank you for coming down to check out our event yesterday. We’re very sorry that we were unable to properly provide a full experience due to the overwhelming crowd at the event. We’ve been working overnight (and will continue to work through the weekend) to find solutions to help improve the event experience and would love to know if you have any feedback to share.We’d also just like to let you know of some changes we’ve made to the event (and how it’s run) to better facilitate the crowds.1) MORE STAFF to manage crowds and open more channels for communication on the ground.
2) LARGER, CLEARER SIGNS to help everyone understand where the queues are, how long they’ll take, where they end and what they are queuing for.
3) BOOTH REARRANGEMENT to improve queue lines and create more space for game players.
4) IMPROVED QUEUE LINES with clearer partitions, more signs and staff to ease traffic and manage expectations.
5) REGULATED COUPON SALES to manage the crowd and give coupon buyers equal opportunity to play the games and win prizes with minimal waiting time.
Coupons will only be on sale every hour, on the hour for half an hour (e.g. 3pm-3.0pm, 4pm-4.30pm, 5pm-5.30pm, etc.). The last slot for purchasing coupons will be at 8pm.
Players are also only allowed to buy a maximum of 10 coupons at a time ($20 worth).
6) SALE OF YO-YO BALLOONS: Many people have mentioned that they would like to purchase the balloons and so we have decided to have a limited amount of balloons available for sale today and tomorrow at $4 per piece.
7) REGULATED YO-YO BALLOONS: unfortunately due to cheaters claiming large amounts of balloons through unfair means, we will be regulating the amount of Yo-yo Balloons each player is allowed to take at the end of their game. We will do our best to catch unlawful players to ensure a fair and better game experience for everyone.
8) SCHEDULED GAMES OPERATION to ensure that there is sufficient time to refill the games and prizes so that everyone can have a more enjoyable experience. No more than ONE game booth will be closed for more than 30 mins at a time to avoid disappointments and long wait times.
Game schedules will be posted on the front of each game booth and reminders will be announced at regular intervals via our loud speaker and through our staff on the ground.
9) REGULATED FOOD PURCHASING: To shorten waiting time and avoid long queues created by single buyers ordering large amounts, each food booth now has their own regulated number of orders each person can make.
Please take note that these changes are made with effect from Saturday, 21 May ’16, 3pm.
10) ROVING ANNOUNCEMENTS will be made to ensure that everyone can clearly hear any updates that we make during the event.
(Image from Super Japan Matsuri Facebook Page)
Verdict: If you like crowds – and sweating in the Singapore heat to eat standard Japanese fair – you’ll love Super Japan Matsuri (21 and 22 May, 3pm – 10pm).
Otherwise, you’d be better off queuing for Bake’s cheese tarts at ION Orchard.
By: The Editors of Men’s Health