Slack-key and Sushi

Being half asian and from Hawai’i, people often ask me if I moved to the Japantown neighborhood because it reminds me of home. The short answer is No. However, this weekend was the Nihonmachi Street Fair, and the billowing aroma of teriyaki BBQ and the strains of slack-key guitar coming from the plaza did flash me back to strolling down the streets of Honolulu. Only with less aloha attire.

The two-day festival hosted musicians and dance troupes representing cultures all around the Pacific Rim. The food vendors set up on Post Street offered tempting tempura and fresh poke, but it was the art stands that I went to see. Vibrant posters done in the traditional woodblock style and raku glazed pottery at one end of the Japan Center plaza, hand beaded evening purses and authentic Samurai swords at the other. I picked up a ginko leaf styled ceramic dish made by seniors at the Kimochi Center for only five dollars, and came this close to getting one of those purses.

If you missed the bargains from the fair vendors, there’s still plenty of reason to do some in-depth browsing through the mall and it’s surrounding shops: My friend Andy frequents the tiny restaurant On The Bridge for flashbacks to his days as a graduate student in Tokyo, Soko Hardware’s basement level is a neighborhood secret for finding unique kitchen tools at an absolute steal, and the Kinokuniya bookstore offers more Manga than you can shake a rolled-up comic book at – and yes, some of it IS in English.

2 Comments so far

  1. s (unregistered) on August 13th, 2006 @ 10:52 pm

    I’ve noticed a rise in popularity of the ginko leaf around town. Witness the filigree adorning the benches on the Octavia street redevelopment, and all the ginko tree plantings around town, courtesy of FUF. Does this coincide with a rising Japanese influence in our fair city? To what do we owe this phenomenon, and is it uniquely SF?

    And why, exactly, did you pass on the evening purse?

  2. Nancy McClure (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 8:39 am

    The ginko leaf has long been recognized as a symbol of memory, longevity and eternity, and have very distinctly shaped leaves that are featured in asian arts of many cultures. The trees are either male or female, and only one gender is used for landscape planting, because the other drops an abundance of sappy residue.

    As for it being an indicator of rising Japanese influence? I’d attribute it more to an appreciation of asian culture in general, but maybe I feel that way because I’m Chinese. [grin]

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