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Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival 2012

The Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival is in its second year and took place in San Francisco at the Peace Plaza in Japantown. The festival a is fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, which publishes the Nichi Bei Weekly Japanese American newspaper. Several hundred gathered for this festival that focused on dishes made from tofu and/or soy products.

Emcees for the event were George Kiriyama (NBC Bay Area) and Jane Katsuyama (KTVU Channel 2). As emcees, both George and Jane introduced the live music and performances underneath the pagoda at Peace Plaza. They also interviewed the contestants and judges for the main event. Also present were Tofu Ninja and Tofu Panda who brought many smiles to both young and old.

The main event for the Tofu Festival was the final round in the Tofu Dessert Competition. The qualifying competition was held previous to this event and three final competitors fought to be the Tofu Dessert Champion. The three tofu dishes that were in the running was a tofu tiramisu dessert, a tofu mochi dessert, and macaroons made from tofu.

The judges for the competition were Eric Mar (SF District Supervisor), Minh Tsai (Hodo Soy Beanery), Asaki Osato (2012 Cherry Blossom Queen), Grace Keh (sffood.net), and Riko Majillo (Ozumo SF). The desserts were served by Miki Fukai, Chihiro Hirai, and Manami Kidera (Princesses of the 2012 Cherry Blossom Queen’s Program). After the judges tasted all three tofu desserts, they had come to a final decision with third place going to Justin Howard (Tofuramisu), second place going to Deanna Gin (Calamansi Macaroons), and first place tofu champion went to Kenji Shimodaira (Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako).

Following the Tofu Dessert Competition, entertainment on the stage resumed and vendors continued to allow festival goers a chance to taste various foods made with tofu or soy products. For those that fear eating tofu in it’s white curd state or fermented soybeans (natto) there were alternative food trucks on Post Street that served up delicious tasting Asian foods. The two food trucks that I found to be ones that I will be following are Chairman Bao and KoJa Kitchen. Both serve up two unique culinary Asian foods and probably will be the forerunners in those dishes until another competitor joins the market.

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Guest judges Riko Majillo, Minh Tsai, Eric Mar, Asaki Osato, and Grace Keh (from left to right)

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Justin Howard's Tofuramisu

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Kenji Shimodaira's Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

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Deanna Gin's Calamansi Macaroons

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Kenji Shimodaira wins the Tofu Dessert Competition with his Zunda Mochi Topped with Kinako.

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A kid in the crowd spots the Tofu Ninja, but can you spot the other ninja in the crowd?

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45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade

CBF 2012

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade hit the streets of San Francisco yesterday. Starting at City Hall, sharing space right next to this year’s Earth Day San Francisco, and finishing off in the heart of Japantown. The Grand Parade caps off two weeks of live entertainment in music, cultural dance performances, cultural arts, martial arts, education, and so much more.

The weather seemed to cooperate with San Franciscan’s this weekend. Saturday having hot and sunny skies, while Sunday brought dense fog early and then broke apart a bit towards the later afternoon. As long as there was no rain, it’s perfect weather in San Francisco and a great day for a parade.

The parade had the usual units that attend annually, but what makes this parade a great one is that so much of the Japanese culture is shown all in just a two-hour span, from music to dance. Highlights of the parade are seeing the little children march down with their classmates supporting their schools or community centers, visiting pageant queens and their courts from Seattle, Honolulu, and LA, the past year and current reigning queens and court of San Franciso as well, demonstrations in martial arts or sword weaponry, taiko drumming, and the carrying of different Japanese shrines.

The one unit that surprisingly brought back memories growing up in San Francisco was an old Muni bus that drove down the route. It was of the old days, though freshly painted, and I can still remember riding it to and from home. My earliest memories on that style of bus was that you can ring the bell to inform the driver to stop multiple times. Now you can only pull the string for the bell once or “push” a button. The time that I can remember the most was ringing the bell almost eight times before I almost got in trouble because I was so excited to hear that chime, the driver was nice enough not to yell at me and traumatize me for life. Ahh those were the days. One more thing, I just remembered, do you even remember when the bus windows would rust or get stuck and they’d never open or close? Do you also remember that they seem to have stronger engines and drove faster than the ones that we have today? They broke down a lot more back then than they do now and less pollution are the benefits of a new fleet.

Anyhow, going back to the parade, the parade was lots of fun seeing familes and friends enjoy themselves and myself also being able to see friends that I’ve met throughout the years. It’s just a fun and exciting place to be every year and that’s one of the main reasons why I attend.

Following the parade, music entertainment resumed, the annual anime fashion show took to the stage, and the food booths were constantly busy. My mouth waters just thinking about the good eats.

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Pageant Queens and their courts, and distinguished guests
The President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Pageant Queens and their courts, Consul General of Japan, and Festival Co-Chairman

2012's Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen
2012′s Miss San Francisco, Miss Golden Gate, Miss SF Outstanding Teen, Miss GG Outstanding Teen

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2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen of Honolulu

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Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

Do you remember riding these buses? I even think they're faster than the ones today!

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2012 Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her Court

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San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 30

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The Center for Asian American Media hosted the 30th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for the past week and a half. The festival is the largest Asian American Film Festival in the United States and draws thousands of supporters every year. The red carpet is pulled out for famous celebrities and those that are up-and-coming. The festival honored Joan Chen for her great achievement in being a pioneer of Asian American media.

This year kicked off at the famous Castro Theatre, with the world premier of “White Frog” directed by Quentin Lee, with a great supporting cast. The feature starred renowned actress Joan Chen, BD wong, Booboo Stewart, Harry Shum Jr., and Tyler Posey. After the premier, guests headed over to the Asian Art Museum to enjoy the always fun and festive Opening Night Gala to mingle, eat and drink, and dance the night away.

Over the weekend, the festival held a program called Directions in Sound, where artists can display their talents through music. The festival also hosted the Festival Forum, which is the festivals largest free program, where guests can watch local artists, performers, and other media. The forum was held in Japantown’s Peace Plaza. The Centerpiece film for the festival was “Yes, We’re Open” by Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza.

The festival held surprisingly the most entertaining program that I have ever been to at the SFIAAFF, that program came last Wednesday when Tadashi Nakamura brought his documentary about Jake Shimabukuro to the big screen in its premier. The well written and captured scenes throughout Jake’s tour around the world playing the ukulele was one of the best documentaries that I’ve ever seen. Following the documentary was a special live performance by Jake Shimabukuro. Throughout his performance he was joined on stage by The Dominator, who won a contest giving him the opportunity to play live on stage.  Jake then followed up by playing alongside his brother and his mother who sang. The program at the Castro Theatre was a sell out and I cannot remember a time when the whole building was filled.

The SF Closing Night program, Prison Dancer: The interactive Web Musical, was very unique and different, where the audience took participation in this interactive experience. The web musical is based on the Philippine prisoners who were known for dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The program featured the web based media that was made alive through a karaoke-styled performance by the characters themselves. The characters also got the audience to move and dance along to one of the created dances. The web series will be updated about every two weeks on their website.

Finally, as the festival closed out their week in San Francisco, San Jose became the heart of the festival as the last remaining three days of the festival moved about 50 miles south. The San Jose Opening Night feature was Michael Kang’s “Knots” with actors, such as Sung Kang and Illeana Douglas. The movie was followed up by a gala at the San Jose Museum of Art.

The SFIAAFF Jury Award Winners for 2012 are:
In The Family: Comcast Narrative Award
A Lot Like You: Best Documentary Award
Director Patrick Wang (In The Family): Emerging Filmmaker Award

Loni Ding Award: Mina T. Son for Roots and Reality

If you would like more information about the festival please visit their website at www.caamedia.org

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Cherry Blossom Festival and Grand Parade 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival and Grand Parade 2010 (click here for images)

The Cherry Blossom Grand Parade was held this year on one of the warmest days that San Francisco has had this year thus far. The parade started in the early afternoon and lasted for about two hours. Meanwhile in the morning, there were tons to see and do. I eventually spent most of my time observing a few exhibits at the Hotel Kabuki. There I got to see some pretty awesome exhibits.

There were four main exhibits that were shown on Sunday and they were the origami exhibit, the bonsai tree exhibit, the paper doll exhibit, and the samurai sword exhibit. My favorite of the four was the paper dolls exhibit. Such great craftsmanship had gone into them that I felt like taking one home; however to my dismay, they were not for sale.

The Grand Parade featured a few local schools, local politicians and dignitaries, pageant contestants and queens, taiko drum troopes, other music groups, men and women from our local law enforcement, along with our fire department, and much much more. The finale of the parade was the highlight for most festival goers with two men whom are half naked on top of a sake keg carrying device who are being rocked side to side and men who toss sake into the air. It is said that the more the sake carrying device is rocked from side to side the more fortune it will bring.

Following the parade, the festival still kept going strong with their exhibits, bands hitting the stages once again, food vendors cooking up a storm, performances rocking the stage in Peace Plaza, and the festival finished off with an annual raffle where winners were pulled by the beautiful ladies of the Cherry Blossom Queens Program.

No plans for next year for two of the weekends in April, well make sure you pencil in a day at the Cherry Blossom Festival here in SF. It will not be disappointing, unless it rains of course.

Pictures of the holiday party can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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Cherry Blossom Festival 2010

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The Cherry Blossom Festival once again never fails to be a fabulous festival and by no means does it get boring year after year. It’s a great Japanese cultural festival traditionally held here in San Francisco’s Japantown. The festival was held for two weekends this year in April and this year the weather was a little unpredictable. The first weekend of the festival it had rained and it really put a damper on attendance.

Although poor weather was present the first weekend, it did not rain on their parade, no pun intended. The second weekend of the festival received great sunny weather. It actually felt like summer in San Francisco for once.

Great things were to be seen at the festival with awesome cultural dances, cultural music, taiko drumming, cultural films, arts and crafts, an origami exhibit, a bonsai tree exhibit, a Japanese paper doll exhibit, a samurai sword exhibit, import cars, live jazz and funk bands, mochi making, great food, and much much more.

Probably the most interesting exhibit at the festival would have to be the Japanese paper doll exhibit. So much time and effort must be put into them that it shows in the final result. The precision that one must have to undergo is just astounding. The paper dolls were very colorful and full of life and you would not have guessed that the clothing would have been made out of folded and cut paper. Pictures of this exhibit and a few other exhibits I mentioned can be found on the link from the next posting.

Great fun and entertainment, the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the greatest cultural festivals that is held here in San Francisco. If you haven’t checked it be sure to mark it on your calendars for next year because it will be a great time, you can count on that.

Pictures of the Cherry Blossom Festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.

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San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

SFIAAFF (click here for images)

The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) is the largest Asian American Film Venue in the country. The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) played host for it in San Francisco and this year CAAM celebrates it’s 30th year as an established Asian American organization.

This year as in the couple of years back the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas played home to the majority of films that were selected to be played at this year’s festival. Other various venues were the Castro Theatre, Viz Cinema, Japantown Peace Plaza, Landmark Clay Theatre, and the Pacific Film Archive Theater.

With the festival in full swing, guests purchased tickets online or at the theaters. Festival goers who are members of the Center of Asian American Media are given special priority in purchasing tickets about a week before ticket sales are open to the public. A highly encouraged way to make sure you get tickets is to join the organization. More information can be found on their website here.

On location of the theaters guests arrive at least 20 minutes prior to seating to ensure the first come first served policy. People that do not have tickets are encouraged to get to the theater much more in advance and try to buy tickets at the box office or take their chances in the rush line. The rush line is a no guarantee chance at purchasing a seat in the theater. Ticket holders that do not attend the screening basically forfeit their seat and ticket and a guest waiting in the rush line can purchase an open seat if available. Highly stressful to be in such a line because there are no guarantees and one can be standing in line and end up being turned away.

Throughout the festival there were about 108 films shown. Films were rated by patrons to determine the best films of the festival and are also judged by a small select panel of judges for special jury awards in a couple of categories.

The following are the results of the top festival award winners in their respective categories:

Narrative Competition Best Narrative Feature: DEAR LEMON LIMA, Dir. Suzi Yoonessi

Special Jury Award: THE MOUNTAIN THIEF, Dir. Gerry Balasta

Jury Recognition for Visual Achievement: FOG, Dir. Kit Hui

Best Documentary Feature: WO AI NI MOMMY, Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal

COMCAST AUDIENCE AWARD:

Best Narrative Feature: AU REVOIR TAIPEI, Dir. Arvin Chen

Best Documentary Feature (tie):  IN THE MATTER OF CHA JUNG HEE, Directed by Deann Borshay Liem

and A VILLAGE CALLED VERSAILLES, Directed by S. Leo Chiang

More information on the festival award winners can be found here.
Pictures of the film festival can be seen by clicking on the picture link above. If this post was informative and helpful, please feel free to leave me a comment or donation below. Thank you.