Three women dressed in beautifully enchanting kimonos greeted guests as they entered OC Japan Fair. Credit Photo: Brianna Contreras.

The scents of sweet and savory delicacies wafted through the crisp fall air, enticing visitors into OC Japan Fair. Once inside, they were welcomed by women adorned in elegant kimonos. The lively atmosphere was further animated by the pulsating beats of Japanese pop music, harmonizing with the sizzling sounds of vendors at work.

Originally scheduled for Friday, October 27 to Sunday, October 29 in Costa Mesa, OC Japan Fair’s third day was regrettably canceled due to high winds. Refunds were promptly issued. Entry required a nominal fee of $12 for parking, while admission tickets were priced at $10. Children under 6 and individuals over 65 enjoyed complimentary entry.

Branded as “The Biggest Japanese Cultural Festival in SoCal,” OC Japan Fair has been a fixture in Orange County since 2009. By providing a platform for sharing Japanese culture, encompassing food, music, anime, and technology, the event serves as a conduit for learning and experiencing Japan. This year’s edition featured an impressive lineup of over 40 food vendors, more than 100 product stalls, and 18 live performances.

Guests relished the opportunity to savor an array of delectable Japanese dishes. From the beloved takoyaki – a savory octopus-filled snack crowned with Japanese mayo, takoyaki sauce, and bonito flakes – to the savory okonomiyaki, a hearty pancake adorned with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, and bonito flakes. The menu also featured ramen, including a novel Ramen burger substituting bread with ramen buns. Not to mention, tantalizing offerings like wagyu beef, sushi, steam buns, yakisoba, curry, musubi, and Korean BBQ. A diverse selection of beverages included Asahi beer, boba tea, matcha, and sake tastings, ensuring a delightful experience for every palate. For those with a sweet tooth, ube cinnamon treats, taiyaki, crepes, baby castella, Hawaiian honey cones, and Japanese shaved ice were on hand.

A bustling marketplace of over 100 vendors catered to anime enthusiasts, offering an array of merchandise, beauty products, accessories, clothing, and art. Attendees had the chance to try their luck at Japanese capsule machines, a beloved toy tradition in Japan, and test their skills at Kiddleston claw machines for a shot at winning small prizes.

A photo of this years OC Japan Fair Stage Schedule, @ocjapanfair via Instagram.

Saturday’s stage played host to a captivating lineup of traditional performances, including the thunderous beats of Taiko drumming, the haunting melodies of the Japanese harp, and mesmerizing displays of martial arts prowess.

 Neo-Japonism, on their inaugural American Tour, set the stage ablaze with their spirited J-pop performance, captivating the audience with their infectious energy.

A cherished recurring guest, Ai Haruna, a prominent Japanese TV personality and singer, took the stage. In 2009, she made history by winning “Miss International Queen” in Thailand, becoming the first transgender Japanese contestant to do so. Before her performances, she invited guests to join her in a dance, creating an atmosphere of joyful camaraderie. As her set progressed, the audience danced and cheered in unison.

The stage was further enlivened by the Arcane Maid Café, who dazzled the audience with their cheerful dances, leading up to the highly anticipated cosplay contest. Three talented contestants emerged victorious, each earning an anime-themed prize bag. The triumphant cosplayers portrayed characters from Five Nights at Freddy’s Fanon, Street Fighter’s Ryu, and Mega Man.

Following the contest, the Wish Final Live Audition for Season two, “Wish Fly to Japan,” provided a platform akin to “America’s Got Talent,” where contestants vied for the chance to win tickets and support to Japan. Attendees were treated to impassioned performances of original songs, witnessing individuals pursuing their dreams.

The crescendo of the event featured two J-pop boy groups, EPTHYMiA and Travis Japan, who electrified the stage. Their ardent fans gathered around, their cheers resonating through the fairgrounds, bringing OC Japan Fair to an exhilarating close.

Despite the unforeseen weather leading to the cancellation of the third day, the previous night’s enchanting full moon provided a fittingly beautiful conclusion to the second day of the OC Japan Fair.

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