Japan Day

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By Nicollette Samuels

Every Mother’s Day the Japanese community in New York City celebrates Japan Day in Central Park.

​It was a rainy day this May 12 but the park was still packed with people eager to sample Japanese culture.

​Some of the main attractions of the Japan Day festival are the stage performances, which started at 10:30 am. There were 12 performances by various acts, including Japanese taiko drumming and dance by COBU, a karate demonstration by the International Karate Organization Kyokushinkaikan and a pop cover performance by JHM Jams.

​Before the stage was a sea of open umbrellas. ​COBU’s performance was one of the most popular with the biggest crowd. As attendees danced to the beat of the taiko drum with flare, they had smiles on their faces despite the pouring rain. COBU told the audience that the group is searching for new members and anyone interested in auditions should check its website.

​The International Karate Organization (IKO) Kyokushinkaikan members — adults and children — performed some outrageous moves. One showed his prowess by karate kicking a baseball bat in half. Another performer chopped a block of ice with his hands.

​JHM Jams is a pop cover band consisting of a bassist, violinist, drummer, guitarist, trumpeter, and two cellists. The group performed two songs including “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.

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​Japan Day is not just about the stage performances, but also the activity and food tents. There were various activity tents dedicated to Japan and Japanese culture like origami, Japanese rail travel, samurais, kabuki face painting, calligraphy, and even a tent to take pictures with Japanese characters like Hello Kitty.

The Japanese community founded Japan Day in 2007 “to say thank you, New York!” This year marks Japan Day’s 13th event in Central Park. Organizers say Japan Day mission’s is “to show the local Japanese community’s appreciation toward their home city, New York, to build bridges of cultural understanding between the people of Japan and the U.S., and to facilitate stronger grass-roots connections within the Japanese local community.”

​Before the Japan Day Festival, there is an annual Japan Day Run conducted by the New York Road Runners. It is a four-mile course in the Central Park inner loop starting on East Drive, near 68th Street.

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