A little bit of Japan is coming to Route 22.

On Saturday, August 21, and Sunday, August 22, the Asian Food Markets of North Plainfield and Nishimoto Trading Co. will present "A Taste of Japan - A Summer Food Festival."

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days, nearly 20 demonstrators will offer free food samples throughout the Asian Food Markets at 1101 Route 22 West, North Plainfield. (Contact the store at 908-668-8382. Find the companies on the web at AsianFoodMarkets.com and NishimotoTrading.com).

"Years ago, we realized, we are not just in the business of selling food," said Jonathan Chan, president of the Asian Food Markets supermarket chain. "We are also in the business of educating consumers about food."

"That's one of the reason why we offer food festivals," he said. "This gives customers a chance to sample food that's new to them without having to buy an entire package of something they don't like.

With the help of Japan's Nishimoto Trading Co., the supermarket will focus on the foods of Japan.

"This gives us an opportunity to introduce our products to more consumers," said Raymond Kwong, an executive with Nishimoto Trading Co. covering New Jersey and New York. "Our company has been around for nearly 100 years in Japan and many years in the United States. But to many consumers in the United States, we are still the new kid on the block."

Nishimoto Trading is a food manufacturer and exporter of products from Japan, Korea and China. The company is known for its "Shirakkiku" brand products." When it comes to food, Nishimoto offers everything Japanese from noodles, sauce and sake to tofu, miso, pickled items, tea and soy bean products.

"Our Summer Japanese Food Festival makes trying new foods risk free," Chan explained. "If something looks interesting, try it. If you like it, buy it. It will be on sale. If you don't like it. Now, you know. And move on to the next sampling table. This is our way of saying thank you to our customers - by sharing traditional Asian tastes with people who might be unfamiliar with our food."

Some of the items expected to be offered for sampling at tables around the store include: Hiyashi Chuka cold noodles, Sekka Rice, Shumai dumplings, Miso soup, Good Good Eat crunchy snacks, Daifuku rice cakes, Mochi ice cream, S&B Curry sauces, Milkita milk soft candy, Fruiche & Milk, Tofu Shirataki and more.

"A Taste of Japan - A Summer Food Festival" is another effort by the Asian Food Markets supermarkets to reach beyond its traditional Asian customers. This year, the Piscataway store offered an Asian Food Fair and a Chinese New Year's Education Campaign. Nine posters explained culinary traditions and rituals of the New Year and Spring Festival, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. From long noodles, dumplings and red envelopes to fish, oranges and sticky cake, shoppers had the opportunity to learn about the celebration of the holiday. Other food festivals have been held recently in North Plainfield, Cherry Hill, Plainsboro and Staten Island.

The Asian Food Markets, founded in 1992, has full service supermarkets in Piscataway, North Plainfield, Middletown, Plainsboro, Cherry Hill and Staten Island. The chain is known for its wide selection of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, live and fresh fish, fresh meat, fresh poultry, fresh baked goods and Asian specialty products from many regions of China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and India. The stores also offer authentic fresh, hot Chinese dishes, ready for takeout.

Nishimoto Trading Co. was established in 1912 and is one of the oldest importers of Asian food in North America. As the company approaches a century in business, it has 19 branches in Japan, United States, Canada and mainland China. The company has expanded from food products to more than 6,500 items including kitchenware, household products and cosmetics.

"For a long time, Nishimoto Trading and the Asian Food Markets have been popular with the Asian communities, but well kept secrets for everybody else," Chan said. "That's why we're reaching out to the community at large. We're not just sellers of Asian food products. The Asian Food Markets is a quality supermarket and Nishimoto Trading is a top quality importer - both specializing in Asian products. That's why we are offering our "A Taste of Japan - A Summer Food Festival."