Every year, we look forward to participating in DC’s Around the World Embassy Tour. Again this year, we joined the Embassy of Japan and over 50 other embassies to share a cultural experience with thousands of attendees. Participants can get the feel of traveling the world through food, art, dance, and music of the different countries. And admission is free!
Upon arrival there were volunteers of every ethnicity. San-J President, Takashi Sato, was at the front of the gate moving around greeting friendly volunteers with appreciation. At 8 am the Japanese Embassy opened up to the volunteers of the event, quickly allowing access and making sure to keep the public to the side. We had two hours to get set up and ready to go!
All volunteers filtered in and quickly began greeting one another. The experienced volunteers who’ve helped in the past began rapidly collecting a San-J Tamari Bottle shirt, which was raved about throughout the day, and moved to their assigned areas for assistance in setup. All new volunteers followed suit.
Takashi went around throughout the crowd of volunteers making sure to greet everyone and assist anyone who needed it. All volunteers after initial setup of food, drinks, origami, and calligraphy stations came to me. I then greeted many unfamiliar but friendly faces of volunteers and gave them the stations that they were assigned to and any instructions needed.
In addition to assigning responsibilities, I wanted to make sure everyone had become aquatinted with each other. Everyone quickly greeted and found much common ground amongst themselves, which was inspirational, for the event hadn’t even began and diversity had already been overcome.
All volunteers prepped and held their breath for the crowd of hundreds of people already beginning to form a line around the Japanese Embassy.
At 10am promptly the Japanese Embassy reopened its gate for the public, which flooded in to be security checked and welcomed into the Embassy house itself.
Once through the Japanese Embassy house, the crowd wandered its way back out onto the other side of courtyard where the volunteers were prepared.
Teriyaki chicken, mochi, and more!
The crowd loved the grilled Tamari corn seasoned with San-J Tamari Soy Sauce. Many were pleasantly surprised after initially thinking they were being handed plain grilled corn.
The much-loved traditional grilled teriyaki chicken had many pointing out that’s what they were counting on after enjoying it at this same event in previous years. New comers agreed that it was a tradition many expected and loved about the Japanese cuisine. Check out San-J Teriyaki sauce to make your own at home!
As the crowds, trickled down the line to the mochi ice cream, many exclaimed “MOCHI, I love this stuff!” or “My favorite!” Those who were unfamiliar with this delicacy quickly fell in love with its deliciousness.
Finally, the popcorn! Many people love popcorn, a food known around many countries eaten in various customs. But the majority of the crowd was new to this fantastic Japanese version… Tamari Popcorn. The ingredients were simple but fantastic together: dry organic Tamari powder and freshly popped popcorn. So many loved this combo that they continuously came back for more or fervently encouraged others to go and try this deliciousness.
Origami and calligraphy
The origami and calligraphy station gathered many children and adults alike.
Children and adults watched in amazement as volunteers demonstrated how to make cranes and other creatures with brightly colored origami paper. Each gave their own hand at replicating these beautiful hand-crafted animals- some in success and exuberance of accomplishment and others in a tried but respectful awe that this task is harder than it looks.
The much-anticipated calligraphy station was so popular, it had it’s own line wrapping itself. This calligraphy is everyday handwriting to the Japanese. To non-Japanese people this alphabet looks foreign and stunning like a masterpiece. Everyone wanted their name, a symbol of significance, or just their letter on a piece of paper. Watching this art in creation looks just as stunning, using a massive paint brush and pan of ink, managing to not spill, and write their beautiful alphabet on paper for others to enjoy.
When the presentation put on by the Japanese Embassy began, a silence fell over the crowd to watch the dance called Eisa and hear what this dance/performance was about. The dance is performed at Bon festival and is done to honor the spirits of their ancestors. As the dancers/performers came on to the little field of grass in a powerful sweep of music and call—they were holding drums and danced in a wide range of motion that was eye catching and graceful.
The bold, eye catching colors for the dress attire these performers wore added a merriment of its own showing that it was a dance of joy and celebration. The drums beating along with the shout of Japanese language this dance kept the crowd memorized till the end of each performance, which always resulted in applause.
When the children performers came out on the grass many faces lit up in the joy of seeing them perform and the children’s own joy upon their faces.
At the end of each set of performances the announcer always had the public join in on the last dance. This dance was one of everyone’s involvement. People were happy to join in and wave their hands upon instructions and dance around in this joyful style.
The dance was explained as being a greeting dance, which was perfect for showing the public the Japanese culture and their beloved lifestyle and traditions.
Many people were pleased and surprised that we are located in Virginia, only an hour and a half from the event. The crowd never ceased from the minute the gates opened at 10am till they officially closed at 4pm.
The crowd in much contentment ate the food they craved and raved about, watched in amazement and awe the skill in origami and calligraphy, and happily joined in the performance of Japanese dancers and performers.
Learn more about the event here, and be on the lookout next May to join in on the fun!