Summertime is fair time. Fairs pop up during the summer months throughout the New York City and the surrounding Tri-State area. If you’ve been to just a few of them you would quickly realize that most fairs are indistinguishable from the next. Fairs are fun and a welcomed distraction from your daily routine and the humdrum of New York City life.; however, many of these fairs are just long blocked off streets of booths trying to sell you something. You can find at least five booths selling the same product at the same prices. These fairs are generic, bland and offer nothing new or different. Do not despair! There are a few that are unique and do put in the extra effort to offer the people something more. I have been fortunate to know of one such festival that I have attended 4 years in row., The Mitsuwa Festival!
Mitsuwa Festival is a celebration created and sponsored by the Mitsuwa Marketplace. Mitsuwa Marketplace (est. 1998) is a specialty supermarket that gives everyone the “Japanese experience” through selling popular Japanese products. It sells mostly food products and some other items like household appliances. Mitsuwa Marketplace has several stores in California, one in Chicago and right here in our own backyard in Edgewater, New Jersey. The Mitsuwa Marketplace is roughly 20 minutes west of Manhattan in the Bergen County. Our Mitsuwa Marketplace sits on the Hudson River with breath taking view of the water, New York City and beyond! It is here where Mitsuwa Marketplace further enrich their relationship with customers through many themed events, the Mitsuwa Festival being one of them.
Around every August, the Mitsuwa Festival broadens the supermarket’s goal to giving everyone a “taste” of Japan life, literally as well as figuratively! They close down their parking lot to establish booths that entice attendees with Japanese mainstay favorites in food and games. You can go balloon fishing and kids archery to win cute prizes like stuffed toys. Many booths serve food from $1-$5 for simple delicacies and snacks. You can chow down on curry, takoyaki (octopus balls), teriyaki, unagi (grilled eel), yakitori (skewered chicken in bbq sauce), ikayaki (small grilled squid on a stick), sushi, and more. Then wash it all down with some green tea! I had a rice bowl with grilled chicken, vegetable dumplings and two melon cream popsicles for $6 total! Sweet!
The center of the parking lot is reserved for interval performances by various troupes. This consists mostly of Japanese folk dancing and taiko drumming. There two types of dances: the is the parasol dance (from Kabuki). It is done with brightly multicolored kimonos with hats and umbrellas. The other is Bon Odori (from The Bon Festival celebrating the ancestral spirits). Bon Odori have the professional dancers on the elevated stage in the center doing specific gestures of arms and hands. Everyone else around the stage moves in a one direction circular motion also doing the gestures. Taiko is an ancient instrument, a drum used in percussion performances rooted in Japanese Shinto mythology. The performance is achieved by a group using various sticks to repeatedly beat on the skin of the drum. Taiko troupes do differ, some are very dynamic and use showmanship. Others use taiko to tell a specific tale! Most of the taiko troupes at the Mitsuwa Festival come year after year!
And of course the Mitsuwa Festival is the perfect opportunity to go shopping at the Mitsuwa Marketplace and other Japanese specialty stores on the property. Talk about a genius marketing ploy to increase sales! From the start of the Mitsuwa Festival to when it is over, the Mitsuwa Marketplace is packed with customers grocery shopping. You can buy frozen foods, fresh vegetables, ice shaver (for making shaved ice) and even sake (rice wine). Some of the products are slightly pricey. Others are more reasonable. But be assured that you will get your money’s worth! I closed out my experience at the Mitsuwa Festival by going home with an assortment of my favorite treats. I took with me a case of ramune (soda pop), onigiri (rice balls), two cream-yaki[s](a cake stuffed with custard) and two taiyaki[s](a cake stuffed with red bean past in form of a fish). It was such a fun filled moment on a beautiful day at the Mitsuwa Festival.
The Mitsuwa Festival is a fair that doesn’t try to capitalize on potential customers. The festival offers your the total experience of a day in a life in Japan. You will come away with a better sense of Japanese culture. This drives you to want to take something from the event home with you. This is what truly inspires consumerism! The Mitsuwa Marketplace is giving something back to the people: happy memories to carry with them through life. You can take in the scenery of the river and participate in all the activities while you do some shopping in between! The other fairs of the metro area can learn a thing or two from the Mitsuwa Marketplace! I encourage all of our readers to go to the festival next year and become regular attendees. You can go alone, with friends or family. I strongly recommend that you go with other people! I did! Going with loved ones always enriches any experience!