I'd say the festival was a huge hit, wouldn't you?
got a review from Alexandra Cheney in The Wall Street Journal
yesterday that was so crazy awesome, I just had to reprint it in full:
Nestled between the Holy Family Church and the Trump World Tower, a thumping beat emerges from Japan Society’s lobby and spills onto the street. Lining the block between first and second avenues, a crowd of culturally savvy j-CATION goers await tickets to enter the day long takeover event. Cheering all things Japanese, Japan Society presents “j-CATION – Taste Japan,” a 12-hour event that began Saturday afternoon and ended early Sunday morning.
Enter the glass doors of the building, which was designed by Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura and opened in 1971. Women dressed in Cosplay (which is short for costume play) maid outfits greet guests at the door.
A $5 donation is suggested, and most people whip out their wallets, including Nobohiko Ikura, the president and CEO of Nippon Steel USA Inc., and Koichi Conatsu, president of Mitsubishi International Corporation. Both are members of the board for Japan Society.
The beats grows louder inside the doors, and vendors selling fried chicken in yakitori sauce and edamame as well as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cream puffs filled-to-order beckon visitors to sample their wares. Behind them, a lily pond with bamboo reflects the yellow, red and green lights of the j-Lounge, the origin of the bass-heavy beats and one of the two bars set up throughout the three floors of Japan Society events.
Up the stairs and to the right, a smaller, more intimate bar sells five kinds of beer and plum wine. From 1 p.m., when the doors open, till 5 p.m., visitors learn about the proper pairing of Japanese tea and sweets in the Sky Room. The remainder of the second floor is dedicated to “Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters,” an exhibition of Japanese artwork by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, a 19th century Japanese master of woodblock prints and painting.
Down the stairs once, and twice, to the basement where participants can view Flavor of Happiness
, a film about food and an aging Chinese chef shown from 1:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.
Organized as a streaming event, ticket holders wander freely through the building. But everyone who craves access to the theater events must wait in line for a separate set of tickets, as space capacity is limited to 230 people.
“We didn’t expect such a continuous crowd, especially those who were so open to the spirit of waiting for the events they want to see,” said Shannon Jowett, the Society’s Director of Communications and the day’s doorman. At 7 p.m. the building had already seen upwards of 2,700 people. Jowett said the Society predicted a little over a thousand.
Post-film a different crowd of stroller-pushing families and hipsters flow into the theater for “Clash of the Foodies!,” an hour-long live game show where food bloggers meet cabaret superstars meet professional wrestler Queen of Squeeze Amazon Annie. The crowd applauds handsomely as Amazon Annie emerges victorious after 6-rounds of food tasting, identifying and re-purposing as clothing.
The stage is stripped of its equipment at Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi, world-record-holding competitive eating champion enters the theater. His 45-minute lecture, “Table Talk,” takes time to address his methodology of eating, a.k.a breaking the hot dog in half then dunking the bun in water and shoving it into his mouth. Going three rounds, Kobayashi crushes the two mediators of the lecture, who look slightly ill as the eating champ washes the hot dogs, which are slightly larger than competition size, down with water.
There are also calligraphy and language classes, and sweet treats for the kids in the j-Lounge upstairs. Asobi Seksu, a dream-pop band out of Brooklyn is the final event of the night, and eager visitors line up once again for the chance to sit in the first row of the theater.
“The building is very old, and so is Japan Society and its members and programs” which turns 103 this year, according to Yoko Shioya, the artistic director for the last 13 years. “But we have a lot of faces and we want to share those multiple faces with all the people here tonight. That’s the point.”
The lights lower and Asobi Seksu take the stage, some yawn from their long day, others jump to their feet as the paper lanterns hanging above the stage pulsate to the beat of the drums."
Labels: Asobi Seksu, calligraphy, Flavor of Happiness, j-CATION, language, sweets, Takeru Kobayashi, tea, Utagawa Kuniyoshi