Taste of Japan Brings Culture and Cuisine to Pike Outlets
By Delaney Tran
Taste of Japan, a one-day festival filled with Japanese food, entertainment, and activities, is arriving in Long Beach for the first time. The idea is to introduce Japanese cuisine and culture to people whose only familiarity consists of sushi, ramen and anime.
This is the event's second iteration; it was first held in Anaheim this year. It all started when Rocky Yoneyama, the principal event organizer, first opened a bakery in Anaheim in July 2018.
The bakery’s location on the Center Street Promenade was largely eclipsed by the Anaheim Packing District. Because of that, he had an idea to hold a festival that would highlight Japanese cuisine and create more foot traffic for the bakery and neighboring businesses.
“There are not that many events for Japanese foods and Japanese culture,” Yoneyama said. “Many people haven’t experienced Japanese culture. A lot of people haven’t tried Japanese street food.”
The Anaheim Japan Fair, as the event was called, was held on May 25 and attracted a bigger-than-anticipated crowd of 10,000 people. They didn’t think to expand it to other locations, but the Pike Outlets caught whiff of the delicious aroma and reached out to have it held in Long Beach.
They will officially be branding it from this time forward as Taste of Japan with plans to hold it in other cities. For this Saturday, Yoneyama said they have made crowd control a priority so that everyone can enjoy the food and activities, including a bonsai workshop (ticketed $40), yo-yo tsuri (fishing), and super ball scooping.
Food prices range from $5 to $12. Here are some vendors you can take a bite from:
Uncle Tetsu - Japanese cheesecake, which differs from normal cheesecake by how fluffy it is
Gindaco - Takoyaki, a baked ball traditionally stuffed with octopus
Otafuku - Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake or “Japanese pizza” that usually has multiple toppings of meat and vegetables on a layer of fried noodles
Katsu Brothers - Katsu (pork cutlet) sandwiches
A.J.A.J. Cafe - Variety of desserts and drinks including mochi ice cream
Tenkatori USA - Japanese fried chicken
For those 21 and older, there will also be a beer and sake garden. VIP tickets include all-you-can-drink alcohol from various selections such as Sapporo and Hiro.
General admission tickets are $5 via online pre-sale until Friday, Sept. 13. On-site tickets will cost $7. Taste of Japan will be located at the Pike Outlets (next to the Ferris wheel and carousel) on Saturday, Sept. 14.