Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Squid Hunt

The winner for the Cool Japan Festival Squid Hunt is...Jesus Huero! Congrats for getting it up first on our Facebook page. Jesus wins a $50 gift certificate to Kinokuniya.  It was a close competition, with only a two-minute difference between the first and second entries. Thanks to everyone who participated! It wouldn't have been fun without you all.

At the festival, many people and people of all ages were searching for the missing squids; we saw everyone from toddlers to adults taking pictures of them.

This event was unfortunately not without tragedy, as two of the squids got lost at different points during the festival. They were duly recovered, and traumatized with their squishy squid feelings, they sought refuge. One clung nearby one of his Fugu (puffer fish) accomplice friends, and the other decided to latch himself and his "L" onto a JapanTown team member! Additionally, we're aware of some people's confusion in posting, and in our next contests, we will be clearer in our instructions to post. We'd like to thank all of the diligent participants again for their enthusiasm in this activity.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The JapanTown Fashion Contest Photos are Up!

The JapanTown Cool Japan Fashion Contest was a huge success! Thanks to all of the fabulous contestants. About 100 people participated dressed in everything from cosplay to yukata to just plain weird. We got a waiter from Ippudo who showed up in his uniform, a bird, a geisha, and a few who didn't even try. Overall, the turnout was great and it's a hard decision for the judges! Yes, we are still waiting for their verdicts, but while they decide, which ones are your favorites and why? Add your comment in the Flickr set!

Additionally, the JapanTown Fashion Contestants had such great outfits that they caught the interest of the New York Times' Fashion & Style editors! Check out the slideshow here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Recap of the JapanTown Cool Japan Festival

Yatta! Congratulations and thank you to everyone for a very successful Cool Japan Festival last Saturday! From the International Shinto Foundation's morning blessings of the event, the Cool Japan Festival promised to be a hit. (Apologies for the delay in this post! The JapanTown team had a lot of post-festival things to sort out and several of us had been preparing for a business trip to Japan.)

The International Shinto Foundation's "shine tent" was certainly a fan favorite. There were three shinto priests who taught visitors omairi, the proper ritual involved in visiting a shrine. You actually don't need to be Shinto to visit one. Many people were curious about the ISF's setup; they had a thick suzu (bell) rope hanging in the middle of the tent, a saisen bako (offeratory box), many omikuji (fortune telling paper slips) tied on bamboo, and a beautiful, intricate mikoshi (portable shrine). The actual procedure is a series of bell ringings, clapping, and bowing, which was an interesting cultural experience. Additionally, please note that the ISF is not a religious organization aiming to propagate Shinto. Most people in Japan are either Shinto or Buddhists, and the ISF represented this aspect Japanese culture.

Another favorite was Dr. Robot! If you aren't familiar, Dr. Robot was offering fun-filled robot throwdowns. We were able to snag this video of a duel between to enthusiastic robot wrestlers. Dr. Robot is Kenshiro Oshima, an engineer who has made it his mission to teach kids science and math through hands-on learning by building basic robots. At the festival, he taught kids how they worked and then invited them to pit the robots against each other.

We also got a lot of interest in the Seikou Shodo Group, which translated visitors' names into Japanese and then drew them in traditional Japanese calligraphy. Jassi also taught people how origami for free.

Other highlights of the festival were beautiful accessories from Kiteya, kawaii products and modern handbags from Rikumo, masks and t-shirts, anime merchandise from Anime Castle,

Of course, we must mention Reni Mimura's Cosplay Cafe, one of the main attractions of the Cool Japan Festival. It was impossible to miss her because she was just too bubbly and cute, dressed in a ruffly blue maid outfit and always encircled by an entourage of smiley backup dancers. When she wasn't singing , she personally greeted her fans while her posse danced, creating a show for the crowd and sold pastries in her "cafe."

The Squid Hunt was a bit hit! It was fascinated us to see people of all ages searching for the squids; we saw everyone from toddlers to adults roaming the festival and taking pictures of them. And yes, we finally got a winner and will announce it once we get all our information.

We have to say the one of our favorite parts was overhearing a passerby saying, "Wow, there's a lot of Asians here!" Ha! On a related note, one aspect of the festival that surprised me was the diversity of our guests, represented best by the fashion contest. We will put up a new page of all the fabulous contestants shortly. The judges are making their decision and will have an answer soon, so thanks for your patience!

Since we had already sampled most of the restaurants featured at the Festival, my goal was to taste the dishes I hadn't already tried. We would have to say that our top recommendation is the Black Sesame Ice Cream from Zaiya, an intensely satisfying combination of smoky roasted sesame seeds and sweet vanilla ice cream.

All in all, the Cool Japan Festival turned out to be hugely popular and fun. The whole JapanTown Team agreed that the event was enormously successful. What did you think of it? We'd like to humbly thank all of our sponsors, vendors and attendees for making this possible, and we hope everyone will rejoin us for our Healthy Food & Green Festival. Here's to August 22nd!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Cool Japan Festival is Tomorrow and Here are Some Vendors That Just Signed Up!

A Shinto Shrine

The JapanTown Cool Japan Festival has welcomed some last minute vendors, which means even more stuff to look forward to! From Queens hails Anime Castle, a popular manga, video game, and cosplay store that will be selling their anime merchandise. There will also be Jassi, a non-profit organization which takes care of social services needs of people of Japanese origin in New York City. Jassi will have a booth where they will be teaching origami, a fun activity for people of all ages. Seikou Shodou Group, a calligraphy school, will be showing people how to practice the centuries-old Japanese art form. Finally, the International Shinto Foundation will have an informational booth on Shinto. The ISF will also bless the festival in a Shinto ritual.

We are happy that these companies and organizations have joined us in the Cool Japan Festival, and we hope everyone will come and enjoy the celebrations tomorrow! We look forward to seeing you!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Catch Squids for Book Cash!

We got a fun little game planned for the Cool Japan Festival that involves exploring hiding places in our two-block event and winning a gift from Kinokuniya. Read on:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All the Fun of a Parade in One Box

At this year's Cool Japan Festival, guests can look forward to visiting the mikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine carried around during celebrations. These shrines are always extremely elaborate and awe-inspiring, often having Phoenix carvings along it, and sometimes are lined with gold plating and jewels. Mikoshi are the equivalents of parade floats in the West, except they are always carried by volunteers and meant to show the spirit of the festival through the more people that have to carry the shrine.

They're More Than Just Sugar Cubes

A lot of us take sugar for granted. It’s most times white, it’s easy to come by, and it has only one flavor: sweet. Web Japan Inc. has taken sugar and done what any self-respecting interior designer would do to generic white rooms: gone to town with it! Chambre De Sucre, Web Japan’s range of artisan sugars, is made by a 270-year-old process to bring the newest edge to sweetness. These ingenious miniature sugar sculptures come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and designs, the perfect addition to your kitchen table as a cute treat or just a conversation piece. Come see Web Japan’s booth at the Cool Japan Festival to see what hand-made artisan sugar is all about.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For That Pretty Little Something, Kiteya's Got It

If you find yourself wandering the streets of Soho, you may happen across a nice little store called Kiteya. Kiteya, meaning, “please visit us,” could not be more welcoming. Its refreshing, naturally-lit open space is graced with the vibrant colors and beautiful traditional Japanese patterns of its products. This quaint store specializes in traditional Japanese craftwork that are displayed side-by-side with modern Japanese fabrics, clothing, paper, and other accessories. A single visit can’t possibly be enough; Kiteya’s variety of designs and pretty little things are sure to make you wish you could buy it all!. If you are in the market for sprucing up your apartment or just looking for that special clutch to liven up your wardrobe - or maybe you simply want something nice - visit Kiteya for a wide range of uniquely Japanese accessories. Kiteya will also be at the Cool Japan Festival, but of course they will only be able to feature a fragment of their wares. If you can, check out their store for the experience!

Get Your Best Cosplay On to Welcome RENI MIMURA to the Cool Japan Festival!

This year at the Cool Japan Festival, JapanTown welcomes internationally renown Reni Mimura! A Moe style performer, Reni is widely known amongst New York’s anime fans for her cosplay singing, dancing, and acting as the epitome of cute. While Reni won’t be singing at Cool Japan due to our needing to respect the residents with the noise level, it will certainly be worth seeing what costume she will be wearing! She will instead be talking to some musicians during a live podcast with Samurai Beat Radio. Reni is well known for her social nature and will be mingling with her fans and signing autographs, so don’t miss her at the festival!

Inspiration Seekers, Go to Go Japanese Restaurant

Cheese is the answer to everything. That would’ve been in the thought bubble floating above my head as I slurped a mini cauldron of streaming udon soup saturated red with kimchi and American cheese. These two ingredients—a piquant vegetable and a sweet-ish creamy dairy product—seemingly belong in different cuisines altogether. Not so at Go Restaurant, where they marry these contradictions in my dish called Kimcheese. This combination is one of the most palatable I’ve ever had, with the liquid cheese neutralizing the spicy kimchi-flavored everything, including slices of pork, in every bite and sparing my tongue.

Monday, July 12, 2010

FOOD at the Cool Japan Festival!

Eager in anticipation for the food selections at JapanTown's Cool Japan Festival? Here's a list of some of the delicious Japanese foods you can expect and the local businesses that will serve them:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wondering What to Expect at the Cool Japan Festival? Details Here.

Hot off the press: new release for the JapanTown Cool Japan Festival:

JapanTown’s Cool Japan Festival to Spotlight Exciting Aspects of Japanese Culture on July 17, 2010

NEW YORK, New York (July 9, 2010) — This year's annual JapanTown comes back to New York as a series of three festivals held throughout the city. Starting it off on July 17th, 2010 in the East Village is the Cool Japan festival that brings New Yorkers a taste of everything "cool" about Japanese culture. From robots to Japanese antiques, cosplay spectacle to mouth-watering Japanese food and sweets galore, visitors of all ages will be sure to feel as if they have stepped into Japan for day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A SHOUT OUT to People Who Love to Sing!

A recent arrival to the Astoria night scene is Karaoke Shout, a sexy karaoke bar introduced by the owners of the well-known East Village favorite, Karaoke Champ. This trendy destination features integrated advanced technology, snazzy private rooms - and best of all, reasonable prices. Go there to check out their iPad Touch song requesting system, and once you've experienced it, I guarantee you won't be able go back to another karaoke place with piles of cumbersome binders to flip though.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cool Curry for a Hot Night in NYC

Curry-Ya's Japanese Beef Classic with Mini Pork Cutlet

A curry restaurant seems to be a counter-intuitive choice in the middle of this record-breaking heat wave. But the JapanTown team heard so many positive recommendations for the Japanese gourmet curry at Curry-Ya that we went anyway, and we didn't regret it even though the curry raised our internal temperatures by several degrees.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cool Japan FASHION CONTEST! Winner Will Receive Free Tickets to Japan!

Harajuku Street Fashion (image credit)

JapanTown is seeking fashionable people to participate in our Cool Japan Fashion Contest! Winners will receive a prize of a free round-trip ticket to Japan from IACE Travel.

The Hottest Dumplings for Your Freezer

For those of you who watch TV and pay attention to commercials, you know that brands such as Stouffer’s, Healthy Choice, and Swanson sell frozen foods. As a kid, I could occasionally look forward to these brands' microwavable meals whenever both of my parents had to work late at night, and my mom, who is a health nut, insisted on these over the frozen pizzas or other microwaveable foods because of the variety within each package. As an adult, I have seen TV dinners evolve to try to lure more customers. A recent trend that I've noticed is “Asian” meals.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Are You Cool?

People have been asking us lately what that cute monster in our poster is all about. First of all, it's a squid and our Cool Japan festival mascot. It doesn't have a name, though, but we can call it Squid for now. Squid's job is to ask people イカしてる? (ikashiteru?), which is Japanese slang for "are you cool?" or just "cool?" The first two characters, イカ (ika), happen to be the word for squid. Therefore, Squid is a pun on the phrase ikashiteru.

Hope this enlightens things. You'll see a lot more of Squid at the Cool Japan festival, coming up in two weeks!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Otafuku -Yaki Adventure


Yesterday, the JapanTown team was in the Fourth of July holiday weekend mood and craved something grilled, so we decided to pop into Otafuku (one of our second-time vendors at the Cool Japan festival) for a quick bite. Otafuku is a charming hole-in-the-wall that can easily be missed if not for its blooming banners and smiling babyface logo heralding the delicious goodies inside. There are only three main dishes on their menu: okonomiyaki (grilled cabbage pancake), yakisoba (fried noodles), and takoyaki (fried octopus balls) – all popular street foods that you’ll find in Japan. Otafuku also sells other snacks such as taiyaki, shaved ice, and ramune.