The Washington Post recently reported that the government of Japan is going to start checking out Japanese restaurants all over the world and handing out seals of approvals for those deemed to be serving â€œauthenticâ€ Japanese cuisine.
This rather extreme step (it sounds like something the snooty French would do) is the result of a recent visit by the country's Minister of Agriculture, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who went to a Japanese restaurant in Colorado and saw that the menu also featured Korean barbecued beef.
One great thing about living in the New York area is the simple fact of its diverse population. I've been shopping regularly at various Asian markets in the area -- a Japanese grocery store in Manhattan; the huge Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa, in northern Jersey; the Korean Han Ah Reum (better known as H-Mart) -- and buying everything from eggs and orange juice to Asian staples like rice, packaged ramen and a variety of unique Asian snacks and junk food.
Here in Jersey City's Journal Square area, there's a concentration of Indians and Pakistanis and a two-block stretch of nothing but Indian groceries and restaurants along Newark Avenue. Today, I explored the neighborhood around Journal Square and discovered to my delight that on another stretch of Newark Avenue, there are a number of Filipino businesses.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, the annual Asian community event that I've been involved in since its debut in 2001, is the mix of traditional Asian and Pacific Islander culture on display along with the new, Asian American values and ideas. That mix is most evident not in the festival athletic competition or the marketplace, where 90+ vendors sell their wares, but on the Performing Arts Stage.
In recent years, some of my favorite performances have been by APIA artists playing contemporary music: Chinese-Filipino Wendy Woo, a popular Colorado singer-songwriter and guitarist, with her Woo Crew rock band; Dwight Mark, a Chinese American multi-instrumentalist mining everything from blues to bluegrass for his original music; and this year for the first time, Korean American singer-sonwgriter Phyllis Heitjan from Philadelphia.
Last night I attended the tail end of an all-day event in Manhattan, and was glad I did. The event was a cross-denominational commemoration of Universal Peace Day, to mark the Aug. 6 anniversay of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 with an atomic bomb, and Nagasaki three days later with a second atomic bomb. The event started early in the day with speeches and music (Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary was the most notable performer) at Riverside Park, but it went well into the night, so I didn't feel I missed anything.
Besides, I got to the New York Buddhist Church on 105th and Riverside Drive in time for the Candlelight March to Riverside Church, where the event finished up, and that was the highlight for me.
The Indian community of Edison, a town in northern New Jersey, is split over racial boundaries. This article ran in the Newark Star-Ledger the other day, about a protest mounted by the growing Indian community in Edison over an alleged police abuse of an Indian man, and a counter-protest by non-Indians.
I've been looking for Asian restaurants in my area of Jersey City, and only having limited luck. Part of Jersey City is becoming "Hobokenized," which is to say, the yuppies are overflowing from Manhattan and settling in parts of New Jersey that are closest to New York. But my part of Jersey City, which is close to where I work in Journal Square, has not been Hobokenized. And it probably won't happen anytime soon.
Anyway, the one Asian cuisine I found right away was Indian food. There's a concentrated South Asian community here and a stretch of Newark Avenue just off Journal Square is dotted with Indian restaurants. I've eaten at a couple of them so far, and they're great.
The ebb and flow of New York neighborhoods is a great example of how cities evolve.
When I attended Pratt Institute in the late 1970s, the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan along St. Marks Place (8th Street becomes St. Marks Place east of 3rd Ave.) was a haven for punk rockers and hipsters, with used record stores (this was pre-CD) and tattoo shops. Drugs were a currency on the street, and leather the couture of choice.
I can recall walking the block of St. Mark's between and 3rd and 2nd Ave. shopping for rare British import albums and marveling at all the street vendors with their wares -- jewelry, records and cassettes, used books -- spread out on blankets on the sidewalk.
That was then. This is now.
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