Friday, October 7, 2011

JapanFest 2011

The last few weekends have been packed with events, and the weekdayss packed with work (working until bedtime every night!), which means lots of photos but no time to edit or write about them. Things are back to normal now though & I'm making some progress. ;)

Three weeks ago we visited JapanFest, a huge convention in Duluth, Georgia featuring all things Japanese. I'd read about it two years ago, a little too late, and last year we only remembered it once we already had plans, so you can guess we were pretty excited to go this time around! Reading through the list of the food that would be on sale only increased my excitement... so many foods I had read about online but never tasted!

Unfortunately things were a bit miserable when we first arrived. An hour in the car with a toddler is enough to put anyone on edge, and then we discovered our exit was closed and we missed the detour. We actually maneuvered that pretty easily, found parking, and started the long hike to the entrance (poor Orson, moved straight from the car-seat to the stroller!). While it had been freezing when we left, as soon as we got out of the car I realized that Orson & I were dressed way too warmly in our long sleeves & pants but had no choice but to deal with the heat.

JapanFest, Crowd

Stepping into the building, the crowd was a little overwhelming. We headed straight for the food court which was also a sea of people and *hot*. The entrance was decorated with some stunning balloon sculptures, but unfortunately Orson is a bit obsessed with balloons right now & we were not enjoying the unending cry of "ba ba ba ba ba ba ba!"

JapanFest, Balloon sculptures

Justin & Orson found some seats at the end of one of the long tables & I headed off to get our food. The plan was to grab a ramen at two different vendors and some takoyaki, but I ended up waiting in one line for at least 15 minutes just to place my order and another 15+ to pick up one ramen. In front of me a girl complained to her mother, "I hate it here! It's too crowded, & everyone pushes, I don't like the food, this is the worst day ever!!!".

My first sip of the Tonkotsu ramen perked me up a bit though. As grumpy as we were at this point, I have to say it was worth the wait! Meaty, creamy, peppery... tastier than I had even hoped for. I was also pleased to see so many people in costume at the event, but I will save those pictures for a second post. We decided to check out the rest of the building and come back for more food later.

JapanFest, craft booths

The merchant booths were nearly as crowded. The few with anime products were so packed you could barely see what they had for sale (not that we would have bought anything, but wouldn't have minded browsing). We picked up a black manekineko ornament and some ceramic origami crane chopstick holders.

JapanFest, Bonsai

There was plenty to see throughout the building, even if it was from afar much of the time. We did not attempt to go to any of the shows this time, but they had performances & talks going on throughout the day.

JapanFest, Cranes

JapanFest, Manekineko

JapanFest, Kimono

JapanFest, Hallway

Afterwards we headed back to the food court & each took a line this time. Justin grabbed the okonomiyaki...

JapanFest, Okonomiyaki

while I picked up some takoyaki.

JapanFest, Takoyaki

Neither of them were as good as I had hoped, but I'd like to try them again elsewhere. I had expected the takoyaki to be crisp on the outside & soft on the inside but the center just tasted like uncooked dough to me (hoping that was a fluke). It was also a mistake to order the two together because we were a bit sick of the similar seafood flavor by the end. We wimped out & washed everything down with some cold Cokes and a soft pretzel. A quick photo by the balloons and we were ready to head home, but not before we ran into two of Justin's former students (who were not there together).

JapanFest, Orson with balloons

I feel like I've mostly complained through this post, but all in all we did have a pretty good time & plan to go again next year. Next time we may get a babysitter though! We do feel like they have outgrown the venue though, and definitely need to find a bigger spot for the 16,000+ crowd. Perhaps the claustrophobia was part of the 'Japan' experience, but dealing with ridiculous lines & blocked booths really did bring the enjoyment down a level.

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