Nintendojo Goes to Natsume’s 21st Annual Christmas Party!

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harvest Moon, photo ops with the president, gargantuan tuna, and more!

By Angela Marrujo Fornaca. Posted 12/18/2017 19:45 Comment on this     ShareThis

Natsume’s U.S. headquarters are nestled in Burlingame, California, which is a pleasant drive from the East Bay, where I and Senior Editor Robert Marrujo reside. We were invited to take part in the festivities for the company’s 21st annual Christmas party, so read on if you’d like to experience the night vicariously through us!

Natsume wasted no time in getting us settled in, and we were greeted with an extremely warm welcome from President Hiro Maekawa and a photo with him upon walking through the doors of the Michelin Guide-recommended Sakae Sushi & Grill. Platters of sushi were placed around the room for everyone’s enjoyment and guests were free to request anything they wanted from the sushi bar. If a waiter spotted anyone without some kind of drink in their hand, they were quick to swoop in and offer refreshments. Hospitality was the night’s middle name and Natsume certainly didn’t disappoint.

At one point we were approached by a longtime Natsume employee, who asked us if we had ever attended one of the company’s Christmas parties, and if we were familiar with the traditional Christmas tuna. She eagerly took us to the back of the restaurant, where the biggest tuna I’ve ever seen was resting on a cart in a bed of ice, too enormous to be carried out by hand. According to the employee, the tuna was to be presented to the guests after President Maekawa’s speech and then cut and served immediately, nice and fresh.

Minutes later the crowd gathered around President Maekawa, who stood on a stool to help his voice carry (and to poke fun at himself for his short stature). While he’d made notes for himself to keep his talking points in order, his speech was far from scripted, as President Maekawa preferred instead to speak from the heart rather than a cue card. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Harvest Moon series, he reminisced on his decision to take a chance in bringing the franchise to the West, and how he thought it could do well in the United States, with its history of farming and agriculture.

Twenty years later, I think it’s safe to say that President Maekawa made a great decision. While Harvest Moon has had its ups and downs over the years, the series is still going strong — it was confirmed that Light of Hope, the latest entry in the franchise that is currently available on Steam, will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in 2018. Harvest Moon 64 was my introduction to the series and remains my favorite Harvest Moon title. It was a little surreal standing a few feet away from a man who was so integral in introducing players to the joys of digital farming, and it was heartwarming to hear him take the time to genuinely thank so many people for the roles they’ve played at Natsume over the years.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

After President Maekawa’s speech, the gargantuan tuna was rolled out from the back and the sushi chefs began the careful process of carving the fish in front of the crowd and serving it immediately. It was certainly the freshest fish I’ve ever had, which I made sure to try — I think it’s safe to say that this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Our parting gift at the end of the evening was a special, 20th anniversary figurine of the Harvest Moon cow, which was totally unexpected and extremely generous of Natsume. It’s currently on display in my home and a joy to have as part of my video game memorabilia collection.

Natsume were lovely hosts, but my favorite part of the evening was seeing how tight-knit of a community the company is and how thankful President Maekawa was for all of the people that make Natsume run on a day to day basis. It was clearly that the affection was mutual between both president and employees.

Let’s see what 2018 has in store for Harvest Moon and Natsume!

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