Food and Fun at Japan Day @ Central Park

Mother’s Day was also Japan Day @ Central Park, a day of activities, performances, and food for mom and the entire family to enjoy. This year’s Japan Day was particularly special as it commemorated the 100th anniversary of New York’s gift of cherry blossom trees from Japan. The sixth annual event featured special events that celebrated the enduring friendship between the two cultures.

To honor the centennial, the Japan Day organizers held a poster contest with the cherry blossom as its theme. The grand prize went to Aaron Porter, an alumnus of the JET program who lived in Japan for three years. Porter’s design, which features a giant cherry blossom tree in the middle of Central Park, became the official logo of Japan Day @ Central Park 2012 and was emblazoned on T-shirts, posters, and flyers.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Aaron Porter's winning poster

Onstage at the Naumburg Bandshell, the central point of the event, Porter was recognized for his achievement by Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul General of Japan in New York; Mitsuhiko Kawai, President and CEO of Mitsui and Co (USA) Inc and chairman of the board of directors of Japan Day Inc; and Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Five other artists received honorable mentions for their submissions.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Winners of Japan Day's poster contest

Sandra Endo, former NY1 anchor/reporter and current CNN Newsource correspondent hosted the lively stage performances, which represented traditional and contemporary Japanese arts. Taiko drumming, kendo, karate, sword fighting, and gospel music entertained the crowd.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Sandra Endo (in kimono) introduces NY Suwa Taiko Association

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

NY Suwa Taiko Association

Local organizations manned activity tents, providing a variety of Japanese games for everyone to enjoy, young and old. Children sporting Kabuki-style face paint courtesy of the Northeast Council of Teachers of Japanese took pictures with Hello Kitty and fought robots in “robot sumo” battles.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Posing with Hello Kitty

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Robot Sumo

Japan Society and JETAANY hosted Yo-Yo Fishing, a typical Japanese summer festival game where children try to hook balloons floating in a pool.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Yo-Yo Fishing

NY de Volunteer had chopsticks games to test everyone’s skill with Asia’s official eating utensil.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

A young boy races his mother in a chopsticks game

JAA taught visitors how to write their names in Japanese at their calligraphy booth, and Enrichment Origami Art Therapy gave an origami workshop.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Calligraphy lesson

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Origami lesson

Of course, the big draw of Japan Day @ Central Park was the food. Although the lines were long, they were more organized than in the past. With each vendor in its own tent and barriers keeping the lines in order, the food service was more efficient, and visitors enjoyed samples of Japanese favorites such as ramen, gyoza, gyudon, okonomiyaki, and Sanuki udon.

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Waiting for food

Japan Day @ Central Park, NYC, sakura, cherry blossoms, festivals

Sanuki udon