Japan Day 2016 – The 10th Anniversary
Originally conceived as a way for the Japanese community in New York to say thanks for the warm hospitality shown by the city and its residents, Japan Day has grown into one of the most highly anticipated summer events in Central Park. The first Japan Day in 2007 attracted a modest crowd of about 14,000 people. Since this humble beginning, Japan Day has continued to expand upon its original goal, attracting world class talent and developing an exciting and dynamic array of entertainment and events, with nearly 60,000 people attending in 2015, the majority of whom were American.
Since its inception there have been some popular attractions that have become festival staples; for example, karate and Japanese sword demonstrations, taiko drumming, and the four mile long Japan Run that has kicked off every Japan Day celebration. The Japan Run is open to the public and invites runners to race through beautiful Central Park. In 2015 nearly 6,000 runners participated, and tickets regularly sell out months in advance. In the past Japanese Olympic runners have even joined in the fun, drawing lines of cheering fans.
Every Japan Day brings new and creative events through which festival goers can enjoy and interact with Japanese culture. Some examples include a reenactment parade celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first visit by Japanese diplomats to New York City where the Consul General and dozens of other people dressed in period clothing, a karaoke competition where American singers sang Japanese songs in a variety of styles such as R&B; Pop; Jazz; Gospel; and Rock, and the making of a music video by volunteers and festival goers to “Fortune Cookie in Love,” a popular song by the famous Japanese idol group AKB48. Since 2010 Japan Day has also had its own bon odori: the NY Ondo, which you can learn to dance in this video.
Central Park is home to a number of sakura (Japanese cherry) trees. These trees are beloved by many New Yorkers and symbolize the connection between the city and Japan. Every year, t-shirts are sold to raise money for the Central Park Conservancy to help maintain Central Park’s sakura trees and plant new ones. These shirts feature artwork by the winner of Japan Day Art Contest and are very popular.
New York is home to nearly 50,000 Japanese residents who comprise one of the largest Japanese communities in the United States and the largest on the east coast. Japan Day serves as a way for this community to express the bonds that tie it together and share their culture with New Yorkers. As Japan Day continues to evolve we are excited at all the possibilities it represents and seeing the many cheerful smiling faces that it brings.