Taste of Japan and the growing popularity of Japanese Culture!    

The Taste of Japan Festival returned to Anaheim STC Gardenwalk on Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17. The festival was free and featured many Japanese food and merch vendors. No one anticipated that Taste of Japan would have out grown the Gardenwalk. Last year, everyone was able to park in the structure. This year people had to find parking elsewhere due to the parking structure being at capacity.

Believe me, the people behind Taste of Japan are already coming up with a plan to prevent this from happening in the future. All of the staff and organizers behind Taste of Japan are amazing people who are introducing Japanese culture to many people in many ways. I have been collaborating with them for years now because of how passionate, kind, and professional they all are! I know it was very frustrating for everyone with the parking and the food vendors selling out of food. I also wasn’t able to eat any food this time at the festival but a positive way we can look at it is to be happy that so many people want to experience Japanese culture. I’m happy to see so many people interested in Japanese culture and look forward to the future! I was one of the official MCs and had two shows where I performed my original Jpop music & my own renditions of famous anime & city pop covers, and for the first time read my book Kamishibai style! 

Kamishibai means paper play in Japanese and is a traditional storytelling art that was popular during the 1930s and post-war period in Japan but is still performed today. I recently released my first ever children’s book “What are your dreams?” with Japanese company Amesian Books/WANANN, Inc. I thought a really fun way to show everyone my book on stage would be to read it Kamishibai style! 

You can check out my article all about Kamishibai right here: https://japanupmagazine.com/archives/9525

Find out all the information about my book and new song here: http://stephanieyanez.com/whatareyourdreams

When I wasn’t on stage I was over at my kiosk meeting people and signing my book! I had so much fun talking with everyone and seeing people excited about Anime and Japan. I really wanted to say thank you to everyone that came out and have been supporting me with the release of my new book! It really means so much to me! 

In the underground parking structure at the Gardenwalk was the Yokocho Fest which included Japanese beer and sake tastings. I really loved the aesthetics of this area. The lighting was super cool and was a great place to get photos! To be honest I actually don’t drink alcohol so I couldn’t tell you if the beer and sake was amazing. But I do know that they had a lot of beer and sake from Japan that aren’t always easily accessible here in the States. 

My friend VJ Sam from Japanese Radio Station TJS was located in the Yokocho Fest area. I have been interviewed on TJS many times but also I have been a radio host on the Japanese radio station a couple of times now!  https://www.tjsla.com/

Do you notice the super aesthetic digital art wall over at the Yokocho fest area? Well that is by Jon Kenzo Okeya! I met illustrators Jon Kenzo and Audrey Okeya of Okeya Stationary Co over at the event Autumn PopUp last year located at Japanese bakery Okayama Kobo. They draw Asian inspired whimsical worlds. Go follow them on social media platforms like Instagram!

Jon Kenzo: @kenzo_illustrations
Audrey Okeya: @audreyokeya

Also at the Yokocho Fest on display was itasha. Itasha is a car decorated with images of characters from anime, manga, video games, etc. The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. The most coolest itasha I have seen was from @mundanewaifu with Junji Ito art all on it. Junji Ito is one of my favorite manga artists. I have met him out in Japan. He is super kind, has shared my music, and retweeted my tweets before! He is also one of the most talented artists I have ever met! 

I was honored to share the stage again with my good friends Ryujin Taiko! They are an amazing group of drummers that you can usually find at your local Japanese/Asian festival ready to entertain and show the light-hearted side of Taiko. I had the honor of having Ryujin Taiko join me for the last song of my concert. Singing with the taiko drums of Ryujin Taiko really move me! Please go follow them on all social media as well as Instagram. @ryujin_taiko

My friends DJ Marcus and DJ Curry from Tune in Tokyo were also at the festival! They are continuing to play the jams and show the love of City Pop, Jpop, Kpop, and international music just like Tune in Tokyo’s co-founder Greg Hignight who passed away last year. You can read my article all about Greg and Tune in Tokyo here: https://japanupmagazine.com/archives/7045

Please go follow and support Tune in Tokyo on all social media plus Instagram. @tuneintokyoevents https://linktr.ee/tuneintokyo

Also my friends over at Anime Topia was at the festival! One of my favorite Anime shops! All the anime goods is from Japan. It’s a secondhand new anime goods shop which also carries new anime merch as well. When you enter the store you are basically looking through a treasure trove of goods from your favorite series. You can find some hard to find retro and new anime goods! Follow them on all social media and here. @animetopiainc

Book-Off was also at the event! Another favorite of mine! This photo was taken from their Instagram. I was so busy I’m surprised I got the photos that I did. Check out some of my articles about Book-Off here: https://japanupmagazine.com/archives/7913

Follow Book-Off everywhere! @bookoffusainc

Of course to end off Taste of Japan I had to go get my gacha on at Gacha x2. They were also out at Ganbatte Mini Con in Arizona that I recently had a concert at! So happy to see them again!  


I had so much fun working with stage manager Jarrel and co-host Kay from Sakura Radio!


We really gave it our all for this festival! I’m just so happy and honored to be a part of this community! Beautiful, crazy, fun memories made with everyone! I want to say thank you to all of the staff at Taste of Japan, Tanoshii Project, STC Foundation, and STC Gardenwalk! My next appearance will be at Anime Expo on July 4th weekend, I will have two shows, one at the Community Stage on July 2 at 7pm and the other at Lounge 21 on July 3 at 5:30pm. I hope to see you there!

Writer: Stephanie Yanez
Instagram @stephachu
Website https://direct.me/stephachu