I got an email out of the blue from a gentleman asking me if I would be interested in holding a lecture on Sake at the December 2007 NYC Anime Convention at the Javits Center. What does sake have to do with Anime? Well the organizers of the Anime Festival were also wisely holding Japanese “culture panels” on subject such as “Kabuki Theater”, “Japanese Woodblock Prints”, “Samurai and Feudal Japan” and of course my favorite cultural topic: “Sake!”
Since I became a “Sake Samurai” last October, one of my vows was to educate about sake, precisely: “Spread the word about Japanese sake around the world with pride and passion”. I knew this lecture opportunity was a chance to do just that! Now, I’ve never been to a Convention before, Star Trek, Sci Fi, Anime or otherwise… so I didn’t know really what to expect. When the day of my lecture arrived, I packed up my laptop and powerpoint and headed off.
I arrived at the Javits Center on the big day and was immediately overwhelmed by the crowds and costumes. I mean… this Anime Festival was ginormus! I saw lots of kids dressed up in lots of crazy costumes. Oh… and lots and lots of spike-y anime hair. Oh… and lots of maid uniforms. Oh… and lots of samurai swords. …and that was just in the lobby.
I found my way to the check in counter for Presenters and got my badge and then I waded into the crowd. Walking to the room where my lecture was being held, i was truly bewildered by the roaming gangs of various Anime characters, many of them chasing and “sword fighting” each other. I couldn’t help feeling like I was the odd man out on the playground. The lecture before mine was cancelled, so I had plenty of time to set up for my sake lecture. Each presentation has tech support provided by the Javits Center – they seemed like old school union guys who were just as bewildered with the parade of costumes as I was.
The lecture room itself was a 200 seat auditorium with a microphone, raised stage and a gigantic movie theater sized projection system. I really wasn’t sure what to expect giving the mildly rowdy shenanigans going on outside the lecture room. I had some time to peek in on some of the other panels and found some of the anime panels overflowing their rooms. My lecture however, was a “panel” of one – Me!
When the time came I called the room to order and began my lecture and slide show. I had about 75 people show up which I thought was a really good turn out! The crowd was mostly professionals in their 30s and 40s with a smattering of young people.
I started by talking about Sake ingredients and then the sake production process. At the request of the organizers I also took some time to make recommendations about where to go to experience sake in New York City for the out of town visitors to the convention. My favorite part of the lecture was opening up the floor to questions from the audience. The crowd asked some fantastic questions and I really enjoyed answering them! All in all it was a great success.
About a month after the lecture, I got a “thank you” package from the organizers of the Festival. It included a couple of T-shirts, a mascot doll and a very special memento of the day… an engraved NYC Anime Festival Sake set! Pretty darn cool if you ask me.