Maui Arts & Entertainment

18th Annual Maui Matsuri Festival Begins April 27

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This year, Maui Matsuri joins in on the statewide celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Japanese immigrants to Hawaiʻi, or Gannenmono. Photo Courtesy

The 18th Annual Maui Matsuri Festival will kickoff Friday, April 27 with a variety of events taking place across Maui until May 5, 2018.

This year, Maui Matsuri joins in on the statewide celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of Japanese immigrants to Hawaiʻi, or Gannenmono.

Maui Matsuri is a chance for the community to honor, celebrate, and perpetuate Japanese culture. Admission to most events is free.


Events include the following:

Friday, April 27 at Queen Kaʻahumanu Center – Maui Matsuri Kickoff with Taiko performances, Japanese dancing, a coloring contest by Sanrio Kaʻahumanu, and more. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and will conclude with bon odori (bon dance) practice around the stage – those with no experience are invited to join in.

Wednesday, May 2 at Kahului Harbor – Arrival of the Kaiwomaru training vessel, four-masted sailing ship, which will arrive from Japan at 10 a.m. The Kaiwomaru embarked on its journey specifically to join in at the Maui Matsuri festivities and to celebrate the Gannenmono.


Thursday, May 3 – Screening of the 2017 film :Go For Broke: an Origin Story.” In addition to the 150th anniversary of the Gannenmono, this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the US incarceration of Japanese during WWII. The film, featuring an all-Japanese American cast, tells the tale of the start of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II and will take place at Wailuku’s historic ʻĪao Theater at 6 p.m.

Friday, May 4 – Maui Matsuri Musical Extravaganza. This tribute to Maui’s plantation heritage will be attended by over 100 crew members of the Kaiwomaru training vessel and feature many Hawaiʻi favorites, including comedian Frank De Lima, social media ʻukulele phenoms Honoka & Azita, and Maui’s own Uluwehi Guerrero. Joining them on stage will be San Francisco Awa Odori group Awakko Ren and a number of other local performances representing Hawaiiian, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese, and Japanese cultures.

Saturday, May 5 – Maui Matsuri Festival Day. A full day of fun starts at 2 p.m. and concludes with a community Obon dance from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Entertainers, food booths/trucks, kids crafts, martial arts demos, eating contests, cultural exhibits, a cosplay exhibition, video game tournament, and much more await on the final and biggest day of Maui Matsuri at UH Maui College.


Matsuri organizers are also looking for contestants to enter the following festival contests on May 5: cosplay, video-gaming, manga and art, and the always entertaining natto and saimin eating contests. Those who are interested in entering can do so at the festival.

For a complete listing of contests and contest guidelines, visit the Maui Matsuri website.

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