The third annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, a fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, was held June 1 in San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Plaza and Buchanan Mall. The event featured a tofu dessert competition, soy and tofu vendors, soy education, live performances, children’s activities, and free samples. Above: Co-emcees George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area and Jana Katsuyama of KTVU Fox 2 interview Tofu Panda and an unnamed mascot.
Co-emcees George Kiriyama and Jana Katsuyama at last year’s Soy and Tofu Festival with two tofu-shaped mascots. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

SAN FRANCISCO — The fourth annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival will be held Saturday, June 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Plaza and Buchanan Mall, Post at Buchanan Street.

It will feature soy-related vendors, free samples, an educational component highlighting the various uses of soy, live performances, audience participation games and a Soy and Tofu Dessert Competition. Returning this year will be a children’s activity area and nonprofit information booths in the Buchanan Mall, with a new addition of entertainment in the Buchanan Mall.

The co-emcees are former NBC Bay Area reporter George Kiriyama and KTVU-TV reporter Jana Katsuyama.

“This festival is essentially a tribute to the almighty soybean, truly one of the most versatile food products in Asian culture, if not the world,” said Kenji G. Taguma, president of the Nichi Bei Foundation and co-chair of the festival. “We’re excited about creating a fun venue to celebrate the joy of soy and learn about the benefits of soy and tofu, and at the same time raising critical funds to support our community-serving mission.”

While the festival is free and open to the public, proceeds from sponsorships, vendors, some food sales and a raffle help the Nichi Bei Foundation continue to publish The Nichi Bei Weekly — the first nonprofit ethnic community newspaper of its kind in the country — and its website,

“The Soy and Tofu Festival is unique because first and foremost it serves as a fundraiser and allows festival goers — both people who frequent Japantown and those who are new to the community — to support one of the most vital nonprofits in our Japanese American community,” said Festival Co-Chair Kiyomi Tanaka. “It is also extremely unique because it highlights a type of food item that is very mysterious but so versatile. I have witnessed people who have always thought of soy or tofu as bland find it to be delicious and an excellent addition to their daily diet or health routine.”

“The festival brings together a great collection of food vendors that make soy and tofu a regular part of their dishes,” said new Vendor Committee Chair Keith Stevens. “It’s now the only festival to highlight how exciting tofu can be and how soy can be used in so many products. It’s also the first and only street festival I’ve heard of that’s designed to support a (community) newspaper. It also has the potential to unite a number of different vendors using soy and tofu and really make their products more of a household concept in America.”

Food vendors include Kikkoman, Hodo Soy Beanery, San Jose Tofu, Nakayoshi Café, SoyJoy, Totally Oishii, InfiniTea, Jade Chocolates, Megumi Natto and the food trucks Naked Chorizo, The Chairman Truck and Linda’s Catering. The festival will introduce to San Francisco the original Ramen Burger, a culinary sensation originated in New York that will partner with the JapaCurry food truck at the festival to present a Tofu Ramen Burger. The festival will also feature its popular mascots, Tofu Panda and Tofutti Cutie.

Since its launch in 2011, the festival’s mission has evolved to focus in part on community-building and leadership development.

“I initially got involved while volunteering for Nakayoshi making food for their excellent cafe at the festival in 2013,” said Stevens, who has stepped into a leadership role this year by helping to expand the collection of vendors. “Now, I’ve been wanting to get more involved to stay connected with local communities and support a (community publication) that keeps people connected and informed.”

Spotlight on Marrow Drive

Like last year, the festival will put a spotlight on the need to register people for the Be the Match Registry, as the Asian American Donor Program will hold a marrow registration drive.

The need to expand the national marrow registry, particularly among multiracial Asians and Asian Americans, is even more pronounced given a current marrow drive fueled by the need to find a match for 7-year-old Baylor “Bay” Nihei Frederickson. The Albany resident was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in February 2012.

Of mixed Japanese and German ancestry, he is most likely to find a match with someone who shares the same ancestries.

“We want to do what we can to help save some lives,” said Taguma. “So we’re proud to partner with such an important organization like the Asian American Donor Program, to raise awareness and to register as many people as we can.”

Representatives of AADP and the boy’s family are scheduled to speak onstage at 1:50 p.m.

Major sponsors include Kikkoman, the San Francisco Japantown Foundation, California Bank & Trust, Union Bank and PG&E, as well as community-based organizations, businesses and individuals. Media sponsors include NBC Bay Area, KTSF-TV, Nichi Bei Weekly, MYX TV, Korea Times, Philippine News and J Weekly.

“We would like to thank all of our sponsors and donors at all levels for helping us to evolve and expand this unique festival,” said Taguma, who also serves as the editor-in-chief of The Nichi Bei Weekly. “We would also like to thank our unique vendors for partnering with us to create such a unique venue.”


As the historic Nichi Bei Times board of directors decided to close the newspaper after 63 years in September 2009, a group of Nichi Bei Times staff and contributing writers, media professionals and community leaders set out to rebuild in the pioneering spirit of Japanese immigrants. They established the Nichi Bei Foundation, an educational and charitable nonprofit organization, as a means to support community organizations, shed light on community issues and document the community’s history.

Just one week after the last edition of The Nichi Bei Times rolled off the presses, the very first edition of The Nichi Bei Weekly was published as the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country. The Nichi Bei Foundation also organizes an annual “Films of Remembrance” event, screening films related to the forced relocation and incarceration of the Japanese American community during World War II, as well as an Author Series.

Born in one of the worst economic climates in decades, with virtually no seed money, the pioneering rebirth of the Nichi Bei Foundation and The Nichi Bei Weekly has become one of the most inspired community movements in recent memory. Inspired by a community-serving historical legacy dating back to The Nichi Bei Shimbun in 1899, the Nichi Bei Foundation and the Nichi Bei Weekly have a simple yet profound mission: to keep the community connected, informed and empowered.

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