By: James Fisher
Walking into the convention center, there is a smell of curry rice and sukiyaki in the air, people dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, and the sounds of kids demonstrating martial arts and taiko drums reverberate throughout. This is JapanFest, an annual festival held at the Gwinnett Convention Center.
The festival is held by the Japan-America Society of Georgia and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, as well as, supported by the Consulate General of Japan. The mission of JapanFest is to promote multicultural education and improve understanding of Japanese culture while advocating Japanese-American friendship.
“It is a fun and exciting time to learn about a new culture,” said Katherine Wu, vice-president of the Dunwoody campus Korean Club at Georgia Perimeter College.
Martial arts dojos from around Atlanta come to JapanFest to perform demonstrations. Aikido, Kendo, Taido Karate, Ninjitsu, and Japanese archery were all represented. In the ballroom, there were booths where attendees could get information about martial arts schools around Atlanta.
In the Performing Arts Center, there was live music performed by the J-Pop singer Junko Fujiyama, jazz pianist Madoka Oshima, taiko drum performers Matsuriza, and the Seigakuin Atlanta International School Children’s Chorus.
In the Hudgens Center for the Arts next door to the convention center, there was a calligraphy exhibit and art show.
There was also Samurai training with actor and comedian Yoshi Amao and performances of Japanese classical dance.
In the exhibit hall, there were demonstrations on how to make sushi and workshops on Japanese table etiquette hosted by “Sushi for Dummies” author Mineko Moreno.
Chef Ryosuke Murakami demonstrated how to make traditional Japanese cuisine. Candy Miyukisan demonstrated her wonderful candy sculpting.
Many local Atlanta Japanese restaurants catered the festival including Kani House, Nakato Japanese Restaurant, Waraku, and more.
Chelsea Scoggins, a nursing student at the Dunwoody campus, enjoyed the barbecue eel with rice and yakionigiri and had the green tea cake roll for dessert.
Vendor booths with local Japanese businesses were also at Japan-Fest.
Amongst others, the vendors included Kimono USA, Mostly Washi, Far East Emporium, and Best Anime Shop. Here attendees could purchase items such as Japanese traditional clothing, art and curio, anime memorabilia, Bento boxes, teas, and snacks.
Companies also supplied information about organizations in Georgia such as the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, Japanese-American Citizens League, and the Japan-America Society of Georgia.
Going to JapanFest is a way to get a taste of Japanese culture without leaving Georgia.
“JapanFest was a lot of fun,” said Brie Webb, co-president of the Japan Club at the Dunwoody campus. “And I was able to see a culture that I wouldn’t normally be able to see first hand unless I were to travel a distance to see it or have to see if the school can have us bring in a demonstration of it.”