BY JOYCE YIU
Examiner Contributor

If you like eating sushi, drinking sake, socializing with friends and meeting new people, don’t miss out on the Sushi and Sake Fest at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Seattle on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The purpose of the event is to educate people about sushi and sake, according to Tom Ikeda, executive director of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce (JACC).

“We wanted to show people what sushi and sake are really about,” said Ikeda.

JACC’s chairman Scott Oki started the Sushi and Sake Fest four years ago. Ikeda said Germany’s Oktoberfest inspired the chairman to create the event. At the Oktoberfest, everyone samples different kinds of beer and sausages while at the same time having fun meeting their friends. Oki witnessed the great success of the Oktoberfest every year and wanted to arrange a similar event for everyone who likes Japanese cuisine.

At the Sushi and Sake Fest, guests can enjoy different types of sushi and sake. Ikeda said participating restaurants set up booths and prepare three different types of sushi for guests to sample.

“Sushi and Sake Fest is the most fun, entertaining, unique, value received fundraising event. It is good because there is no program, no speeches, but just the opportunity to have sushi, sake, mochi ice cream and other Japanese food,” explained Alan Kurimura, the co-chairman of the event this year.

Ikeda thinks that the Sushi and Sake Fest is more than a chance to try out Japanese cuisine.

“It’s a fun and good place to meet people. At the same time, it’s educational. Not many people know how to appreciate sake; they are often told to heat the wine before drinking, but in fact it is better to drink it at room temperature or chilled,” Ikeda said.

Ikeda noted that one of the purposes of the event is to raise funds for education on umbilical cord blood donations for medical purposes. The umbilical cord blood is a potential source of stem cells to treat cancer and other disorders. Children of people of color are more likely to suffer from diseases, such as leukemia, but the reserve for umbilical cord blood is rather insufficient. To encourage more umbilical cord blood donations, the JACC will utilize the profits of the Sushi and Sake Fest for umbilical cord blood education.

Kurimura thinks that the festival is a great exposure for participating local Japanese restaurants and sushi chefs. This year, eight restaurants will be part of the event. According to Ikeda, JACC is responsible for the cost of the sushi ingredients and the restaurant chefs volunteer their time at the festival.

“We would like to acknowledge the restaurants for their efforts,” said Ikeda.

Participating restaurants are I Love Sushi, Chiso Restaurant, Kisaku Restaurant, Hiroshi’s Restaurant and Catering Service, Nishino, Sushiman and Rice ‘n’ Roll. Ikeda hopes that people will visit these restaurants more often after sampling the authentic sushi at the upcoming festival.

“I think the more they know about sushi and sake, the more they will want to go to these restaurants,” he said.

The Sushi and Sake Fest has proven to be a great success. Although it is an unpublicized event, admission tickets are sold out quickly every year to JACC members and their friends.

“Many members are attending again this year along with their friends,” said Ikeda.

The co-chairman of the Sushi and Sake Fest is very pleased to see the acceptance of the Sushi and Sake Fest.

“The Sushi and Sake Fest is so hugely popular as a private event. I smile each time I think about how many people look forward to it. 2007 will be a big year for the event because it is the 50th anniversary of the Kobe/Seattle Sister City Relationship. We are already talking about how the festival can fit into the anniversary celebration,” said Kurimura.

For more information about the Sushi and Sake Fest, please visit the JACC Web site at www.jachamber.com/jacc_events_2005_01.htm.
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