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!


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