Japan Week 2016

By Luis Vazquez

It was three days of cultural education at Grand Central Terminal. What we got was Japan Week 2016 and despite the limited spacing, a lot of topics were on display. Everything from food to travel and many attractive things in between. The memories of 3/11, the day of the Tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 were referred to or displayed throughout.

Starting the tour was the various travel and tourist agencies highlighting various tours available. The Japan National Tourism Organization was prominent among them. A few steps away was the impressive high-speed train that was displayed as a model, through information boards and videos, and the train simulator. The news that came out of this was the announcement of the new speed train, the “Hakodate Liner” whose expansion line is to be expanded into Hokkaido. “It’s convenient and more attractive to customers,” explained Emiko Sayama, director of the East Japan Railway Company New York chapter. The linkage is possible as it will take advantage of the underwater Seiken Tunnel connecting the two parts of the island which took place in late March.

Then it was back to the past, particularly the 16th-18th century where the transition from the dominant rule of the emperors to the revolutionary expressions were represented by the art of Ukiyo-E. Miyuki Shimizu explained the process as 64-year veteran, Keizaburo Matsuzaki, a master of this style of woodblock printing demonstrated. “It’s a traditional form of Japanese woodblock printing,” Miyuki explained, “There are three steps starting with drawing in black ink, carving on the wood block, then putting color on wood block. It takes different artists to make Ukiyo-E.”

On thing we can count on is food as we sampled Royce Chocolates, Santouka Ramen, and Croquettes. What was particularly impressive was the Kaiten Sushi conveyor Belt which rotated sushi around for easy selection.

One can always count on skincare vendors to be among the most popular. The Vegan Skincare company, Abyssal, was present along with owner Mari-san. The sugar scrup, called sucremor, which comes in different aromas, citrus, rosemary, vanilla, lavender, among others was given out as free samples. Renee Buck, U.S. Marketing Manager, shared some of the ingredients of the scrup. “It’s organic, uses sugarbeets from Hokkaido, with ingredients you can recognize such as coconut or sunflower oil,” Renee pointed out, “The Japanese know how to take care their skin. All skin products from Japan I could trust.” Among the skin creams was an eleborate selection for babies as well and with an english language website in the works will become available to U.S. Consumers.

And now we came to the largest setup as NHK World media along with the famous mascot, Domo-kun, outshined the other vendors for showcases. The public broadcaster in Japan which has been around for 18 years, was featuring programming that appear on the network. Shinichi Kamiyo, Senior Manager, Global Strategy Division, shared the direction the station was taking. “It’s a 24/7 network with two channels, one in Japanese then English,” Kunichi shared, “The two top films were the promotion of the new train line to Hokkaido and 3/11 showing the efforts of the public following the progression from this tragedy.” Among the exhibits were worn items that were collected from the tsunami aftermath.

We closed out with a very well known retail shopping center, Aeon, whose most infamous products are the kids plastic schoolbags called randsel’s. They were layed out to various colors and are known for its space capacity, durability, design, and lightness. There was so much crammed in to see but visitors were sure not to miss out on any aspect of Japanese culture worth knowing.

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