“Food is a central part of any culture,” says Betty Tan, who does PR for NY JapanTown. She and the rest of her JapanTowners are preparing for their street fair, the Healthy Food and Green Festival on Sunday, August 22 from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. The festival, the second of three this summer for NY JapanTown, focuses on the healthy foods that are synonymous with Japanese cuisine.
The Healthy Food and Green Festival is an ideal way to promote Japanese ingredients such as soy, rice, and noodles, which have a lot of vitamins and nutrients. It’s well documented that the Japanese have a high life expectancy, and their diet is considered a major factor. Highlights of Sunday’s festival include Souen, a macrobiotic restaurant; Suzuki Farm, which grows pesticide-free Japanese produce; miso beef from Marukome; and soy products from Kikkoman, best known for its soy sauce. There will also be healthy cooking demonstrations and free tastings throughout the day.
With food being the focus of the street fair, Tan anticipates anywhere between 40 to 80 thousand visitors enjoying cuisine and products from almost thirty vendors. Is it surprising that so many people – many of whom aren’t Japanese – are interested in Japanese culture? “It doesn’t surprise me that Japanese culture is getting popular,” says Tan. “It does surprise me that some people know a lot of detail about some aspects of Japanese culture [from calligraphy to language to kimono].”
Started last year under the name NYC Japan Street Fair, the events are run by Azix, a marketing and communications firm that focuses on Japanese companies. The street fairs are designed to introduce Japanese culture to New Yorkers, but they also endorse Japanese restaurants and merchandise vendors that don’t have the budget for traditional advertising. With the potential for 80 thousand visitors to the festival, the opportunity of exposure for both the consumer and the vendor is high.
“We don’t have a JapanTown like Chinatown where restaurants are all together in one place and you can learn about food and culture,” says Tan. “The Japanese community isn’t that centralized.” Through the street fairs, however, New Yorkers can learn more about the Japanese community and feel as if there is a true JapanTown in NYC, even if it’s just for a day.
The Healthy Food and Green Festival is this Sunday, August 22 from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Madison Avenue between 43rd and 45th Streets in Midtown. For more information and for a full schedule of demonstrations, go to nyjapantown.org.