Nascar Driver Akinori Ogata
Akinori Ogata’s car
So the confusion as to how big the Japan Block party was stemmed from the fact that this was two separate block parties in 1. There was a 1 block fair focused specifically on Japanese restaurants, products and charities like Table for 2. Continuing on for another 6 blocks was the standard NY street fair. Think Canoli, Mozzarepas, NY Times subscriptions, and discount rugs. Not sure why these two fairs were held together, but it definitely diluted the Japan block fair experience. The food was amazing, with the perfect combination of street fair with Japanese food going to Japadog. In a nod to the pre-Bloomberg, pre-Giuliani New York, many vendors even served beer, though it was Kirin Free so as to keep with local ordinance banning alcohol from these types of public events.
Beyond all of the great food, NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata was on hand. I have to admit, when I first read that he was coming, my reaction was “he’s coming to do what?” He actually hung out with everyone and was incredibly accessible. The entire time I attended the event, he was out among the crowd talking about both NASCAR and racing in general. In a New York where celebrities either at worst have an attitude, or at best simply prefer being left alone, a NASCAR driver spending his afternoon chatting with people off the street was a refreshing experience.
So this week information about the East Village Japan Block Party was finally posted. Starting with the bad news, it looks like there are no vendors selling shochu. The good news is that this street fair looks far more interesting than the Mozarella Arepas, NY Times subscription, 3 dollar socks booths that I normally experience at street fairs in New York. The event starts at 12pm and lasts until 5pm. The location is on 3rd avenue from 7th street to St. Marks Place.
There will be a stage for Japanese singers and dancing acts. What’s a bit odd is that the stage is supposedly setup on 3rd Avenue between 13th and 14th street. It taken literally this would put the stage 5 blocks away from the food. Potentially the street fair is a 7 block party instead of a 1 block party. I think if you make it to St. Marks Place, it should be easy to see where the party is at. Once you find the stage, note that acts will be performing only from 12-4pm. If you arrive too late, you’ll miss the entertainment. Beyond the singers and dancers, NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata will be in attendance. It’s not really stated what he’ll be doing or how accessible he’ll be for the Japanese NASCAR fans out there.
The biggest plus is the food. There are over 25 vendors signed up providing food and drink. Classics such as okonomiyaki, yakisoba, Japanese curry, sushi, and tea are to be had. It’s supposed to almost 80 degrees tomorrow, so if you need to cool off, do it with tea from Table for Two. Not only will it re-hydrate you, but you’ll also be contributing to a good cause.
Our friends at Table For 2 brought to our attention a Japan Block Party that is coming on Saturday, June 15th. It’s on 3rd Avenue between 7th street and St. Mark’s Place. Details of the event are extremely scarce, so much so that I almost didn’t submit this post for lack of anything to say. The presenter’s website only promise to have “Products, Food, and Performances.” Not only do they not mention what the exhibitors are, they do not even mention start and finish times. The one saving grace of this block party is the fact that if the event is a total bust, at least you are around the corner from St. Mark’s Place. Given the location, I think the attendees alone will make this worth stopping by. As specifics reach the web, I’ll update the post. If you do attend, do stop by the stand for Table for 2 and buy a drink. It’s a great Tokyo based charity that is doing a lot of good.
Japan Day Art Award Presentation
Japan Day NYC 2013
Today was Japan Day in Central Park. Given that the festivities were in a park in NY, there was no Shochu to be found. That said, it was still a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful weather.. Things started off with a 4 mile race at 8AM this morning. It was a great race, with a great T-Shirt. If anyone is reading, please do us a favor and drop the cotton and upgrade to Dri-Fit. If you had a tolerance for lines, after the race there were tents with Okonomiyaki, Ramen, Gyoza, and Miso Soup. Teas’ Teas was line free and handed out drinks as fast as people could take them, though they showed up with their Half and Half line only. If you like sweetened Tea, then Half and Half may be for you, but having tried a couple of flavors, I found them both to be too sweet for my tastes.
Beyond the food tents, there were a lot of activities for the kids. There was caligraphy and Origami lessons were popular and the Hello Kitty photo booth and Kabuki face painting made for many photogenic moments. The only activity that left me confused was the “Yo-Yo fishing.” Essentially you have to hook balloons as the float in a pool. It’s harder than it looks.
Besides the initial race, the main draw were the performances on the main stage. MINE, Kai Rivera, Yosakoi Dance Project 10tecomai and Japanese Folk Dance Institute of NY performed dance routines and Emi Meyer, Kylee, and Christ Hart sang. My favorite of the day were taiko performances by Taiko Masal and Soh Daiko. The taiko and shamisen are by far my favorite Japanese instruments. If you ever get a chance to attend a concert for one of these insruments, it should not be missed.