If you happened to see an abundance of ladies dressed in French maid outfits and men rocking furry headdresses in the East Village yesterday, you weren’t suffering from heat stroke-induced hallucinations. The costumed cosplayers were attending JapanTown’s Cool Japan street festival. Yesterday’s festival, the first of three scheduled around the city this summer and fall, focused on the cool aspects of Japanese culture. Vendors provided a variety of Japanese foods, from traditional curries to teriyaki pizza, as well as Japanese antiques, anime-related products, and even miniature battle bots duking it out sumo style. For the spiritually inclined, there was a portable shrine and a stall providing information about Japan’s major religion, Shintoism.
One of the main attractions was cosplay singer and dancer Reni Mimura, who was podcasting live from her booth at the festival. Reni and her backup performers wowed the crowd with her Japanese maid dance show (as you can imagine, this was particularly popular with the fellas). There was also a scavenger hunt for Squid, the Cool Japan mascot. Because this was a Japanese scavenger hunt, it was a bit more technologically advanced and involved taking pictures, creating albums, and uploading them to the JapanTown website, which was too much work for most of us lazy Americans. There was also a fashion contest, which encouraged attendees to dress in their most eye-catching Japanese street style to vie for the grand prize: free tickets to Japan.
The next JapanTown event, the Healthy Food and Green Festival, will focus on the healthy foods that are credited with helping the Japanese to have the longest lifespans in the world, the Soul Food Festival, will encourage you to stray from your standard California roll and chicken teriyaki and chow down on Japanese food like grandma used to make.