What do you get when you mix tea and hackathons? You get a Chackathon. The Chackathon is a portmanteau of Cha, the Japanese word for tea and Hackathon, a competition in which teams compete to make a software application. This hackathon didn’t involve hacking but the atmosphere was just as innovative as an actual Hackathon.
The discussion topic was “how to get 50,000 Japanese living in Seattle”. Most of the teams at the Chackathon were Japanese but I joined the only English team because I felt more comfortable speaking English than Japanese. Our team name was “Matcha Latte,” to reflect the Japanese community in Seattle, a city famous for coffee. As the hackathon started, a representative of Ito-En handed all the participants four of their green tea products. One of them was the standard “Oi~ Ocha” green tea that is seen all over Japan, but the other three were products I have never seen before. As I was carried away by my team’s fervent discussion during the Chackathon, I realized that I had consumed all four of my drinks 30 minutes into the Chackathon while my teammates were still sipping at their first bottle. It was a decision I would regret later on.
Sip slowly, but don’t drink all four at once! (Photo credit of Mari Kuster but we should use our own photo if we have one…)
The timer stopped and the teams began to present. The Chackathon had three judges and we were judged on “creativity”, “realistic”, “scalability”, “presentation” and “teamwork”. All 6 teams that presented came up with incredible ideas. I remember one team proposed a Japanese drama set in Seattle while another proposed building a bathhouse to attract more Japanese to Seattle.
Our team first, determined that 50,000 population growth to be unrealistic and instead proposed a more realistic goal of 27,000. We realized that Seattle needed a platform for Japanese to live in aspects of business, education, sports/entertainment, media/local organization and retirement. Our team wanted to encourage WA state to increase import/export and lobby state to have similar incentives such as “Start up New York”. There was also a need to redevelop an area where the Japanese can live together like Spring District. We then came up with idea’s like bringing J-league to play against Sounders FC and Sumo exhibitions to Seattle like Vegas for entertainment. Our team noticed that all the current Japanese organizations were working too much on their own and felt the need to bring together all the organizations. Which we came up with an idea called “Meet me at the J” community center. We also proposed to promote Seattle’s beauty and use a Panama Hotel model to make more welcome.
After all presentations and all of our brilliant ideas, “Maccha Latte” team did not win 1st or even 2nd place (They only announced to 2nd place). We thought we had the most logical and realistic idea to help Seattle and the Japanese community. But our presentation did go over time and it did feel like we lacked creativity. We learned that next time we will try to go more creative and bring a brilliant innovative idea to help the Japanese community. I would personally like to keep all these ideas going and help grow the Japanese community in Seattle.
Mochitsuki: Pounding Rice
After the presentations were finished, we moved into Mochi-tsuki, a Japanese New Year custom where participants help make mochi ricecakes by pounding at rice with two-handed wooden hammers. At this point, my body felt a bit weird. It felt like the exact opposite of being drunk. My muscles were twitching and I had a subtle headache. I think I overdosed on caffeine during the Chackathon so I couldn’t participate in the Mochi-tsuki due to safety reasons. But I had a great time watching everyone make mochi and eating the mochi.
Overall, I believe it was a successful Chackathon. I was happy to see ~30 participants of all ages and professions come together to innovate at the Chackathon. I certainly hope that this Chackathon can provide the Japanese community in Seattle with new ideas on growing the Japanese community in Seattle.