JapanCulture•NYC generally covers Japan Block Fair, but on Sunday, October 20 we had our first booth. We served goya champuru, a traditional dish from Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan. Having the booth gave us the opportunity to talk to people face-to-face about what JapanCulture•NYC does, as well as introduce goya champuru to the masses in the Upper West Side. It was interesting to see some people react when they were told that SPAM is a major ingredient.
Several members of the Japanese community in New York helped us throughout the day, making our booth a success. We were fortunate to have Tamio Spiegel, formerly of the Gohan Society, as our executive chef. Handling the slicing of bitter melon and the cracking of eggs were Jen Green, Sonoko Niswander, Juri Kumagai, Kaori Eda, and Stann Nakazano.
Teiko Tursi, current president of the Okinawa American Association of New York (OAANY), and longtime OAANY member Eiko Steel performed an Okinawan folk song at our booth, which drew a big crowd. We were honored to take the stage at Japan Block Fair, where Teiko and Eiko performed songs with taiko drums, shanshin, and karate moves.
In addition to the restaurants and vendors who regularly participate in Japan Block Fair, several residents of Fukushima sold food and goods while updating visitors on the state of their region, which, of course, was heavily damaged by the triple disaster of March 11, 2011. Fujisankei News covered their participation in Japan Block Fair and aired a segment on Japanese television. You can watch it here, in Japanese only.
Thanks to everyone who volunteered at the JapanCulture•NYC Goya Champuru booth, and thanks to everyone who sampled our dish – especially those who stepped out of their comfort zones to taste something completely foreign to them. As a result, we were able to connect with the community, and we now have new friends and followers. We can’t ask for anything more than that.
To see more photos from Japan Block Fair, please check out our Flickr set.