This past weekend, Japan came to Atlanta, and visitors got to experience cultural dance, music, food, games and products. After paying a $10 entrance fee, we had access to hundreds of booths and vendors at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia.
Of course the food was the show stopper; a few vendors were outside serving Takoyaki, Yakitori and Hibachi. Inside, there was a food court with a number of vendors offering yakisoba, sushi, tempura and baked Japanese treats. Mochi ice cream bars flew off the shelves so fast we didn’t get to try it.
But we did get to try the same kind of shaved ice we had in Okinawa, which consists snow-like fluff slightly sweetened with condensed milk and a variation of fruits, like kiwi, strawberries and mango. Delicious mochi pieces gave it a satisfying chewy texture…this may be one of my favorite desserts ever. It looks so indulgent, but is actually pretty balanced.
For my main dish, I tried something called Okonomiyaki, known as a savory pancake. It reminded me a lot of Egg-fu-yung, but a little fresher since the veggies inside were really crisp and awesome. A brown sauce, fish flakes (don’t judge it until you’ve tried it) and pork are blended and pan fried into a large circle; they are really good.
I’m biased because I’m a huge Japanese food fan, but I felt like you couldn’t go wrong with any of the food choices.
There were plenty of things to take home, from weird anime statues of a Mario rat, or traditional cat keepsakes. Alot of the typical snacks you’d find in a typical store in Japan were sold in some of the booths.
We ended up with our signature souvenir choice…a Christmas ornament. It may not have been one originally, but we love turning keepsakes into something that adorns our tree. We even have cocktail picks from other countries in our ornament box! At one of the booths, two women were writing personalized Japanese symbols onto wooden blocks, some of which came with a string tied on already. We had our names put on ours. I thought the concept was really cool.
We only saw a few performances; one on the large stage and a couple in the food court. All felt authentic with some performers singing, dancing and even story telling. The drummers were probably our favorite as they put on an animated, powerful performance with only drums.
The shows and food hands down were the highlights. The products were unique, but I wish we could have seen a few more authentic booths and a little less of the plain Jane stuff that you can find anywhere. There was a gutter company, a car dealership and even the National Guard trying to promote an angle. But this is just my personal opinion; I’d like to see JapanFest stick completely with authenticity in the future.
Overall, it was fun, entertaining and enriching. I’d say definitely go, especially if you love Japanese food!
Photo Credit: Pam Tyson Yasinski