Japan Fair, the largest Japanese cultural festival in Southern California, was held at Orange County Fairgrounds October 15-17.
People flocked from all over Costa Mesa to experience this immersive and informative event. Japan Fair aims to educate the general public about traditional and modern Japanese culture.
Japan Fair started in 2009 and, according to event coordinator Masa Taguchi, is growing every year.
“The fair started as a one-day event on Saturday, it has grown so big that it’s now a three-day event spanning both day and night,” Taguchi said.
This year’s theme was “Skills from Japan”. The theme was specially chosen by Taguchi keeping in mind those who were unable to travel to Japan due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“Most people couldn’t leave or travel this year,” Taguchi said. “This theme was special because we wanted to introduce Japanese culture to those who were stuck at home.”
The event was divided into three main areas: food, vendors, and entertainment.
This year, Japan Fair had 76 vendors in the markets and 27 different food trucks.
Food trucks were lined up along the perimeter of the event, surrounding visitors with a wide range of dining options. Japanese dishes such as sushi, ramen, yakisoba, and taiyaki were all readily available for hungry guests.
Many of these food vendors were local Japanese restaurants based in Orange County. One of these restaurants was Shin-sen-gumi, a restaurant in Fountain Valley selling their famous yakitori. Yakitori is a grilled meat skewer often served with a sauce.
The fair offered Japanese dishes, as well as many other Asian cultural dishes. One of the most popular food trucks was Korean BBQ Luckyball for their Korean squid skewers. Filipino cuisine was represented by Kapamilya family restaurant sell Halo-Halo and Lumpia.
Many vendors were selling Japanese clothes. Traditional clothes like Hatori and Kimonos were for sale. Casual t-shirts decorated with Kanji phrases were also sold.
Anime, or Japanese animated work, had its own section on the fairground. Many cosplayers have appeared dressed as their favorite characters and flocked to the vendors to purchase merchandise from their favorite show. Cartoon-inspired toys, stickers, patches, pillows and blankets were all sold and wanted.
A stall sold Japanese fable story books for children. One of the storybooks told the story of Maneki neko or “the lucky cat”. It is believed that having a photo or a figurine of this cat brings good luck.
Calligraphy is considered an art form in Japan and plays a huge role in the culture. Kanji phrases such as “zen”, “success” and “happiness” were carefully written and sold.
Apart from the market and the food trucks, live entertainment was presented on a huge stage at the end of the room.
The performances are strategically scheduled to appeal to the audience.
“Day and night attract different types of people – families with children attend during the day while younger ones attend at night,” Taguchi said.
During the day, more traditional performances take place, such as kimono shows, tuna cutting shows, and Taiko drum performances. At night, shows showcasing modern Japanese culture are presented. This includes dance groups and Anime themed songs.
“The Japan Fair is fun for everyone and something I love to organize,” Taguchi said. “Sharing my culture, my food and my music is something I really love.”