Since it’s the last day of 2012, JapanCulture•NYC feels compelled to reflect on the year that was. We chose five categories upon which this website is based – food, drink, the arts, community, and fun – and selected the stories that had the biggest impact.
Food appears to be people’s first entrée into Japanese culture, and for the last couple of years, ramen has been the star of Japanese cuisine in NYC. Ramen continued to dominate food talk in NYC in 2012, and the talk was fueled by the first NY Street Ramen Contest. Staged at three Japan Block Fairs, the NY Street Ramen Contest pitted the ramen recipes of area chefs against each other, competing to create the quintessential style of ramen that appeals to New Yorkers.
JapanCulture•NYC talked to several people, including Keizo Shimamoto of Go Ramen! fame, about the ramen scene in New York.
The final round of the NY Street Ramen Contest will be in early spring of 2013, and iconic ramen chef Ivan Orkin is scheduled to open a restaurant in the Lower East Side, ensuring that we’ll be talking about ramen well into the New Year.
You can’t talk about Japanese food without mentioning Japanese drink, and this year sake wasn’t the hot topic. It was shochu.
A distilled alcoholic beverage that overtook sake in popularity among the Japanese, shochu is now finding its footing in New York. In February there was a shochu contest (contests seemed to be a theme in 2012) that tested the skill of contestants around the city, including some who had never heard of the beverage. JETRO sponsored Shochu Night Out and Experience Shochu, two events that brought together shochu makers from Japan and curious drinkers from New York.
The chatter about shochu spawned tastings that will continue throughout 2013.
Arts: Yayoi Kusama
Concerts, gallery exhibitions, and museum displays featuring the works of Japanese artists are never in short supply. But one artist in particular dominated the city with her retrospective: Yayoi Kusama.
The Japanese avant-garde sculptor, painter, novelist, and filmmaker who called New York her home from 1957 until 1973, was the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum. In addition, her artwork was installed at Chelsea Piers, displayed in the window of Louis Vuitton, and draped over a building under construction in the Meat Packing District.
Honorable mention: L’Arc~en~Ciel. The venerable j-pop/j-rock band became the first Japanese act to headline Madison Square Garden when they performed on March 25.
Community: 3.11 Anniversary
March 11, 2012, marked the first anniversary of the horrific and devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a massive nuclear crisis in Northeastern Japan. To commemorate the occasion and to spread awareness, several groups –from established organizations to grassroots efforts – held events throughout the city. It was a special weekend, filled with emotion for not only the Japanese and Japanese American community, but for all concerned New Yorkers.
Electronic cherry blossoms fell in Times Square on March 1, kicking off Japan Week. On March 10, TOGETHER for 3.11, a beautiful commemorative event organized by pop singer AK Akemi Kakihara and other community leaders, took place at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in the Upper West Side and featured guest speakers and video clips from people in Northeastern Japan. There was a flurry of activity on March 11, and JapanCulture•NYC attempted to catch as many commemorations as possible.
The situation remains dire in Northeastern Japan, as thousands still live in temporary housing and the nuclear crisis remains unresolved, so it is likely that the Japanese and Japanese American community will continue to raise money and awareness as we move forward.
Fun: JapanCulture•NYC Begins Saturday•Izakaya Videos
The main purpose of this website is to show how fun Japanese culture – especially its food culture – can be. So we started a new feature called Saturday•Izakaya. We cook a dish commonly found on izakaya menus and videotape the process.
New York may not be excited about it yet, but it’s our favorite fun highlight of 2012. Here’s our latest video, which features the Okinawan dish taco rice.
It was certainly a busy year for JapanCulture•NYC, and we have no doubt that 2013 will provide us with many opportunities to highlight Japanese culture in New York.
Happy New Year, everyone!