Japan Week 2015 – Depachika, Domo, and Doraemon

The three-day event known as Japan Week 2015 kicked off  in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall Wednesday, February 18. A lengthy delay – sources say a truck carrying supplies stalled in New Jersey on its way into the city – did not deter the large crowd anticipating the sweet and savory offerings of the makeshift depachika, or the market located on the basement level of department stores throughout Japan. (The word depachika is a hybrid of the Japanese words for department store, “depato” and basement, “chika.”)

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Ambassador Sumio Kusaka (far right) leads the Kagami biraki at the Japan Week 2015 opening ceremony
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The line to enter the depachika area stretched outside Grand Central Terminal

Once inside the crowd found packaged regional Japanese sweets, including beniimo tarts (made with purple sweet potatoes from Okinawa), sesame dango (rice flour dumpling), haginotsuki (a gourmet specialty from Sendai), and otabe (sweets from Kyoto). Premium beef bento and calamari stuffed with sticky rice are also available, but the hottest items are the takoyaki from Kukuru, one of the most famous takoyaki places in Osaka; and the ramen kits by Sun Noodle.

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Beniimo tart
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Takoyaki Kukuru

While food is the major draw for Japan Week, there are exhibits for people who have interests in other areas of Japanese culture. New Yorkers love the sense of exoticism associated with kimono. This year Watabe Wedding offers lucky couples to be dressed in wedding kimono by Emi Kikuchi of Kimono Experience.

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Wedding kimono

Also in the area of fashion, Kamakura Shirts is giving away $5 gift cards to the first 50 visitors to the upscale boutique’s booth each day of Japan Week 2015. They are also having a men’s fashion show on Friday at 6:00 p.m. According to Jay Katayama of Kamakura Shirts, the men you’ll see on the catwalk aren’t professional models. Instead, the company chose ten of their most loyal customers to represent the Japanese clothier.

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Kamakura Shirts

Established in 1881, Seiko is one of the oldest watch companies in the world, but at its Japan Week booth you’ll find some of the latest technology. On display is the Astron line of GPS watches that run from $1,850 to $3,000. If you’re not ready to pay and astronomical price for the Astron, perhaps Seiko’s retro look with the retro price of $300 is more to your liking.

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Astron GPS by Seiko
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Seiko’s retro series

The Japanese love cute characters, and the completely kawaii Domo and Doraemon are here! Young and old will have the chance to meet them during their scheduled stage appearances.

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Yuki Tanaka of JNTO and Ambassador Kusaka with Domo
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Doraemon with Tanaka and Kusaka

Doraemon is also serving as a Station Master for East Japan Railway, which will launch its newest shinkansen to Hokuriku next month. The new train will make travel from Tokyo to Ishikawa Prefecture faster and easier.

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Station Master Doraemon
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Newest shinkansen for East Japan Railway

Japan Weeek 2015 continues today until 8:00 p.m. and tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Don’t miss the food, stage performances, and the chance to talk about touring Japan. For a complete schedule, please visit Japan Week’s website.

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