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Japanese Culture Spotlighted at Japan Day Celebration in Central Park

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Some New Yorkers spent their Mother's Day enjoying Japanese culture at the eighth annual Japan Day celebration in Central Park. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

For a taste of Japan, there was no better place to be Sunday than Central Park, where vendors served up some authentic dishes.

Chef: Okonomiyaki.
Wagner:And what's in there?
Chef: Cabbage, flour, egg, green onion and tempura chips.
Wagner: Is it delicious?
Chef: See!

Organizers expected around 45,000 people to participate in the eighth annual Japan Day, but by noon, it seemed like there were that many on the Gyoza line alone.

Wagner: It's like a dumpling?
Attendee: Yes.
Wagner: Have you ever had it before?
Attendee: No, but it tastes really good.

The point of the free event is to give new audiences a chance to sink their teeth into Japanese culture and celebrate all it has to offer.

"All this being done by having fun together," said Ambassador Sumio Kusaka, consul general of Japan in New York. "That's very important part, and I'm hoping that in the course of the event, many American people participating can really enjoy Japanese culture."

On the face of it, they certainly seemed to enjoy it. Kids and adults alike tried their hand at something new from origami, the art of paper folding, to traditional calligraphy.

"I'm just so happy to be here," said another participant. "I mean, it's a day to learn about something different."

Those looking to fully immerse themselves in Japanese culture could don a beautiful and surprisingly comfortable yukata."

"Yukata is supposed to be the casual cloth in Japan, especially in the summertime, so today may be the best time to wear the yukata, actually," said Tomoko Akase, an exhibitor at Japan Day.

"It feels great. I love it," said one Japan Day participant. "I could wear this to teach every day."

Of course, there were plenty in the crowd who wore their appreciation of Japanese culture on their sleeve. For most, though, it was just a chance to get to experience a country that's half a world away without the 12-hour plane ride.

"I love my country, and I hope everybody understand a little bit of our culture," said one Japan Day attendee.

"They have such a rich culture and traditions, and they're very generous in sharing with us today," said another.

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