Shinju Matsuri – Japanese for “Festival of the Pearl” – is a celebration of the many cultures that shaped Broome during the peak of the prosperous pearl industry particularly the Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Aboriginal cultures.
Shinju Matsuri President Chris Maher said that the nine-day festival features over 20 events, which starts with the ceremonial waking of Sammy the Chinese Dragon.
“After laying dormant for some time, Sammy, who is Shinju Matsuri’s much loved icon, will be ready for his awakening,” Mr Maher said.
“Sammy will commence the festivities with energy and colour – it’s something the whole community looks forward to.
“Sammy is much loved by the community and the locals – they speak about him as if he’s a real person and kids go absolutely crazy for him.
“This year, Sammy gets a sleep in and will be waking up on Sunday [11 September], giving more people the chance to see him.”
Broome’s oldest man of Chinese descent will start the celebrations by uncovering Sammy’s eyes. Once woken, Sammy will dazzle the crowd with his vibrant, captivating dance, signifying Shinju Matsuri is open and ready to bring all sorts of wonder to Broome.
Mr Maher said that this year for the first time, Sammy will be accompanied by the Japanese Taiko drummers and perform to the beats of both Chinese and Japanese drums.
Running for 46 years, Shinju Matsuri is ingrained into Broome’s sense of place. It began with pearling luggers who traditionally stayed out at sea for six to eight weeks and upon their return, the crews would celebrate. The Chinese paid tribute to their ancestors with Hung Seng, the Japanese observed Obon, and the Malays celebrated their Independence Day, Merdeka.
By combining this multicultural heritage with the traditional custodians of the land, the Festival of the Pearl evolved and is held over the full moon each year.
Highlights include the Floating Lantern Matsuri, the Sunset Long Table Dinner set on the sand on Cable Beach (sold out), Willie Creek Pearl Harvest, art exhibitions and awards, a float parade, film, music, dance, family and community events, food and a Festival Finale party.