What began in 2007 as a celebration of Japanese culture for one day in Upper West Side has blossomed to a full-scale parade along Central Park West, with Star Trek star George Takei leading the way.
The first ever Japan parade hit Manhattan streets May 14 to commemorate Japanese contributions, traditions, and culture from Central Park West between 68th and 81st Streets.
The opening ceremony began on 71st Street and included renditions of the American and Japan national anthems, taiko (drum) performances by the Soh Daiko, Young People’s Chorus of New York City, special proclamations from both the mayor’s and governor’s office were presented to Parade Executive Producer Kumiko Yoshii and Japan Day Chairman of the Board of Directors Atsushi Ueda.
Hosted by journalist Sandra Endo, the opening ceremony shined light on the significance of the Japan parade, especially after the tumultuous year members of the AAPI community have had in combatting hate crimes, xenophobia, and violence. Endo shared that the parade marked the 150th anniversary of the 1872 Japanese mission to the United States, helmed by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Iwakura Tomomi.
“Let’s start promoting each other and really celebrating each other. The purpose of all this is to promote Japan’s culture and the Japanese friendship that we built for so many years. This is truly a milestone anniversary, the 150th anniversary and let’s celebrate it here today alongside Central Park and pass it to the next generation,” Endo said.
Grand Marshal Takei and Ambassador Mikio Mori welcomed onlookers to the parade and shared their excitement to take part its first outing.
“Celebrating the traditions, the customs, the art of Japan as well as a taste of Japan at the street fair on 69th Street,” Takei began, “may this inaugural Japan parade live long and prosper.”
Prior to the parade’s launch, a religious blessing was held marking the significance of the day as well as an official ribbon cutting.
Thousands of participants and revelers waved the Japan flag as parade floats. Some of the floats consisted of musical performance, chorus, and even displays of Samurai swordsmanship. Fans of Japanese anime and manga were especially happy to see a float dedicated to the Sailor Guardians.
In addition to the parade, there was also a Japan street fair open from 1pm to 4:30pm located on 69th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Attendees were able to get a real taste of authentic Japanese food, while also purchasing clothes and other items.