In 2007, Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai, who was then the Ambassador and Consul General of Japan in New York, called upon leading Japanese companies to create and sponsor a special event to celebrate the local communities, shared heritages, and cherished cultures of the Japanese American people of New York. This event, named Japan Day @ Central Park, was held every May until 2019, when Japan Day achieved its thirteenth anniversary.
Japan Day @ Central Park featured booths where visitors could sample authentic Japanese cuisine, and engage in fun and educational activities like shodō (Japanese calligraphy) and origami. In addition to shows by local artists, the festival also presented performances from internationally recognized artists such as Sadao Watanabe, AKB48, and Puffy AmiYumi. Japan Day @ Central Park also partnered with the New York Road Runners to host the four mile Japan Run, which became a qualifying event for the New York City Marathon.
Like many events throughout New York City, Japan Day was deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Though the 2020 event was unfortunately canceled, the event was adapted to a digital format in 2021 as the Japan Day 2021 Thank You Project.
After 2 years of postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, Japan Day was reborn in 2022 as the Japan Parade and the Japan Street Fair. The parade route went southbound on Central Park West, beginning on West 81st Street and ending on West 67th Street. The street fair was held on 69th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
The inaugural Japan Parade featured units that showcased traditional and modern Japanese culture such as taiko performers, bon-odori dancers, marchers wearing kimono, and martial arts teams of disciplines like karate and judo. Other units included activists against anti-Asian hate, representatives of New York City like The Band of the City of New York Police Department, and a unit of Ukrainian-Americans led by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America. In total, Japan Parade 2022 had over 2,400 individual participants in 85 marching units, while a crowd of over 20,000 cheered them on. The Japan Street Fair became the spiritual successor of Japan Day @ Central Park, hosting food tents, activity tents, and tents like
The warm welcome the first Japan Parade received encouraged us to have the Parade and Street Fair return for a second year in 2023. While the parade route was kept the same, the street fair was moved to West 72nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
Japan Parade & Street Fair 2023 surpassed our wildest expectations, with official NYPD estimates setting public attendance at almost 50,000. Mayor Eric Adams attended the Parade, along with many dignitaries from New York State and New York City. We are thrilled that the Japan Parade & Street Fair has become an important fixture of New York, not only for the Japanese-American communities it celebrates, but also for all New Yorkers.
Japan Day @ Central Park, and now Japan Parade and Japan Street Fair, are organized by Japan Day Inc, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Japan Day Inc. is led by a Board of Directors consisting of representatives from leading Japanese companies in New York.
The Japan Parade, Japan Street Fair, and Japan Day Inc.’s related activities are made possible by the support of the Japanese-American community, the Consulate General of Japan in New York, and the City of New York, through their sponsorships, donations, volunteers, and boundlessly generous cooperation.