Kick-Off Gala for Japan Week at Grand Central

Photo credit: Niko

Japan Week, a three-day festival dedicated to all things Japanese to spur tourism to Japan, kicked off at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Howard Permut (President of Metro-North Railroad) and Masaki Ogata (JR East Vice Chairman)

One of the evening’s highlights was a ceremony that formalized the first-ever, sister-station relationship between Grand Central Terminal and Tokyo Station. The ceremony included an exchange of official railroad hats and gifts.

Yasuyoshi Umehara (Head of Tokyo Station) and Masaki Ogata (JR East Vice Chairman) with Vincent DiRenno (General Superintendent, Grand Central Terminal) and Howard Permut (President, Metro-North Railroad)

The festival continues with special “ekiben” bento boxes showcasing local and regional dishes, a “pop-up” sake bar with 90 different sakes, a rare demonstration of geisha makeup techniques by a master artist, traditional and contemporary Japanese music and more.

Highlighted event elements at Grand Central Terminal include:

• “Ekiben” Bento Boxes: A corner of the hall is devoted to Japanese ekiben, which are bento boxes sold at railway train stations throughout Japan. Ekiben often contain local specialties from the region in which they are sold, and their debut in Japan Week will allow attendees to experience a culinary tour of Japan’s diverse regions.

kyotofu Ekiben (Nicole Bermensolo, CEO of Kyotofu)

• Japanese “Pop-Up” Bar: To replicate a traditional tachinomiya (standing bar), the event constructs a Japanese “pop-up” bar in the evenings selling jizake, which is local sake (rice wine) that is painstakingly produced by small craft brewers and is prized across Japan, as well as shochu, the country’s distilled spirit. Chris Johnson is a saké sommelier certified by the Sake Service Institute, a member of the board of directors for Joy of Sake, and has served as a senior judge for the U.S. National Sake Appraisal since 2000.

Chris Johnson, sake sommelier (left) and Chizuko Niikawa-Helton, President of Sake Discoveries (center)

Toshiyuki Koizumi, President of wasan

• Geisha Make-Up Demonstration: One of the event’s unique cultural highlights will be a 30-minute demonstration of geisha make-up techniques by Ms. Satomi Shiroma, who is among only 10 masters of this art in Japan. Moreover, the master title is customarily earned after a 20-year apprenticeship.

Satomi Shiroma

• Japanese Restaurant Week: From March 4-18, 2013, Japan Week will host Japanese Restaurant Week, which promotes Japanese restaurants serving local and regional dishes in ekiben bento boxes.

Megu Restaurant

• With a performance by Mitsuru Kamijo Edo Ito Ayatsuri (Edo Marionette), traditional style puppeteer performance. Mitsuru Kamijo is a puppeteer of Edo Marionette, which is a Japanese tradition handed down from the Edo period when samurai lived.

Edo Ito Ayatsuri

•  Kimono show by stylist & designer Nobuaki Tomita. He believes that representing Japanese culture worldwide “with the charm of kimono” will help Japanese people re-recognize their culture and pass on the tradition to young generations.

Nobuaki Tomita

Japan Week is a public-private partnership that promotes Japanese culture, food and beverages to encourage tourism to Japan. The multi-day festival showcases Japan as an incomparable travel destination by celebrating its diverse local and regional foods, beverages, music, art and culture.  For more: please visit

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Fumio Iwai, Deputy Consul General, Consulate of Japan in New York

Ms. Saori Kawano (President of KORIN)

AsianInNY staff with Reina Tomita (Finance and Budget Officer of United Nations), Michael Romano (Director of Culinary Development, Union Square Hospitality Group), Yuki Tanaka (Executive Director Japan National Tourism Organization), Nobuaki Tomita (Kimono Master) Left to Right.

AsianInNY staff with Michael Anthony (Executive Chef of Gramercy Taverm) and Reina Tomita (Finance and Budget Officer of United Nations)

Japan week NY


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