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The weather was beautiful, the audience enthusiastic and the performances eclectic and equally outstanding for Mikuni Restaurant’s second annual Japanese Street Festival Thursday at the Fountains in Roseville.
Mikuni pulled out all the stops this year to promote cultural awareness, but also to simply foster community togetherness and show its appreciation for its many loyal customers.
Image by: Jeremiah Mayhew www.jeremiahmayhew.com
Visantha Dunn took the opportunity to spend quality time with her mother Susan and two sons, Logan and Arturo, ages four and six.
“The dancing, martial arts, face-painting, the oragami - they’re just loving everything,” Dunn said of her boys.
When asked his favorite part of the event, Logan proudly displayed the Mikuni sumo wrestler etched on his fist, “My tattoo!”
Emcee Michelle Dobin kicked off the event by thanking the crowd and introducing Sacramento Taiko Dan, the premiere Japanese drumming ensemble in the greater Sacramento area. The crowd was held captive as the group’s emphatic beats filled the air.
Kovar’s Satori Academy picked up where the drummers left off, showcasing their martial arts training in choreographed form that was part fight and part dance. Members of all ages displayed their skills, some even utilizing authentic staffs and nunchaku.
Debbie Barker Brune took the stage next with her Japanese koto, the national instrument of Japan. Fern Chan's haunting vocals blended seamlessly with Brune's strings and the backup stylings of Musical Charis, a local retro-inspired folk rock band.
As Chan crooned, "If only you could find me from where you are/ I do believe I will see you once again," the Na Maka Polynesian dancers moved onto the lawn in front of the stage to perform under the guidance of hula instructors Janet Auwae-McCoy and Tanisha Reshke. With all pieces in place, the performance was truly breathtaking.
Additional dance performances included Sacramento-based hip hop troupe Boogie MonStarz and sister crew Press P.L.A.Y. (for Passion Love Art and Youth). Both groups melded urban beats with their own unique styles and energy. The UC Davis Japanese American Student Society (JASS) showed off their traditional Japanese dance moves, and the Sacramento Kendo Club engaged in the ancient art of kendo in full uniform.
Patrons of all ages were invited to partake in oragami, face-painting, fan coloring, and fishing for prizes at any one of a number of stands set up to facilitate the impressive crowd. Mikuni’s sushi bus was parked in back, offering $3 bites that included their famous Fair Oaks roll, pork gyoza, chicken teriyaki bowls, and edamame. Green tea smoothies provided by Wellness Depot were a subtle and refreshing dessert.
The excitement reached its apex when the time finally came, after months of anticipation, to announce the winner of a Honda Fit provided by AutoWest Honda of Roseville and raffled off in celebration of Mikuni’s 25th Anniversary this month. Each of the five finalists selected a key, one of which would start the Honda Fit parked in back. After three failed attempts it was Steve Bones, a patron of Mikuni Elk Grove, who was finally able to start the car.
“What a great event with great people. This is just fantastic!” he said from behind the driver’s seat.
The other four finalists did not walk away empty-handed. One by one they chose from an array of valuable prizes: a spa package provided by Simple Serenity Day Spa, his and hers watches from Guzetta and Company Fine Jewelers, two bikes from Bicycles Plus, and a six-month gym membership for a family of five to California Family Fitness. Everyone departed with smiles on their faces.
“We are diehard Mikuni people since 1990,” Ruth Dreshner-Brown said while bopping to the contagious beats of the drums with husband Vern at her side. “I’d do anything to see Taiko Dan, but the dancers were exceptional,” she said. “I’m just really impressed. Taro did it again!”
As the event came to a close, many of the patrons weren’t quite finished. It was standing room only at Mikuni Kaizen, just around the corner from the performance stage.
Mikuni owner and Chief Dreaming Officer Taro Arai could not have been more pleased with the execution or reception of the street festival.
“Twenty-five years ago, we only had a few Japanese restaurants in Sacramento and I felt like one of the “gaijin” (Japanese for “foreigner”)," he said, "After all these years of partnering with our community in various ways and the growing popularity of sushi, I feel like I’ve found a great family! I can’t thank our customers enough for their love and support over the past twenty-five years.”
The Mikuni festivities will culminate this Tuesday at their 25th Anniversary party to be held at Mikuni Elk Grove. Tickets are available at any Mikuni location or by calling (916) 576-2641 x41.