A massive Hello Kitty statue stares at visitors in the main lobby of the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC). Famous Japanese action figures are on display in individual glass cases.
The walls are plastered with posters displaying the evolution of Japanese cartoon characters since 1950.
There is a large poster of a smiling old man drinking out of a mug that features his grandchildren’s favourite anime characters. This exhibition, titled “Kingdom of Characters”, is one of many set to open at this weekend’s Japan Cambodia Kizuna Festival 2013.
About 2,000 attendees showed up last year for the festival but organisers are expecting bigger crowds this year – the second time the festival has been held – as it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the reestablishment of Japanese-Cambodian relations following the Second World War.
All manner of Japanese culture, from tea ceremonies to Pikachu, will be showcased at the festival, which runs from February 21 to 24.
Among the festival’s highlights will be a live performance by internationally acclaimed musician Sho Asano.
The 22 year-old is considered one of the youngest stars of Japanese traditional music. He will play a traditional stringed instrument called the shamisen at 6pm on Saturday.
A cosplay show – a performance featuring professional cosplayers who dress and act like famous animated characters from books, films and cartoons – will take place at 2pm on Sunday.
There is even a space for the serious: subjects such as the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan and economic development in Cambodia are on the agenda in the form of lectures and films.
A joint Khmer-Japanese culinary exhibition will put the two cultures side by side.
“This festival really responds to the CJCC’s purpose of strengthening the relationship between Cambodia and Japan,” said Rouen Cheaseyleak, who added that the festival was made possible with support from the Japanese embassy.
“We would like to give knowledge related to Japanese culture to Cambodian people and knowledge related to Cambodian culture to Japanese people in Cambodia.”
Japan Cambodia Kizuna Festival 2013 launches on Thursday, February 21, at 6:30pm and closes on Sunday, February 24.
All events are held at the CJCC building at the Royal University of Phnom Penh Russian Federation Boulevard.
Call 023-883-649 for more information. Admission is free.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bennett Murray at [email protected]