People of Japanese descent are gearing up for their first-ever parade in New York, taking their place among the roster of groups celebrating their heritage with marches through America’s most populous city.
Scheduled for May 14, the Japan Day parade comes amid activism following a wave of anti-Asian attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, and solidarity is part of the parade’s message. But the planning began long before the emergence of COVID-19.
Organizers originally aimed to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but the virus postponed their plans.
“It creates a great momentum to improve it, to celebrate the recovery from the pandemic, as well as the Japanese community’s appreciation for New York City,” said Ambassador Mikio Mori, Consul General of Japan in New York. York, during a press preview on Wednesday.
The parade aims to increase the visibility of the Japanese and Japanese American community in the New York metropolitan area. At about 56,000, the New York area has the fourth-largest Japanese population in the country, behind those of Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
There has been a Japan Day festival in Central Park for a few years, but organizers felt they could reach more people by taking it out onto the streets.
With more than 1,700 participants, the parade of dance troupes, music ensembles, martial arts groups and more will proceed along Central Park West in Manhattan, a boulevard also used during the parade Macy’s Thanksgiving Day. Actor, author and activist George Takei will be the Grand Marshal.
Tak Furumoto, for his part, is looking forward to all of this.
Born in a California camp where people of Japanese descent were incarcerated during World War II, Furumoto grew up partly in Hiroshima – where his grandparents had survived the United States’ atomic bomb in 1945 – and partly in Los Angeles. He joined the US Army, fought in Vietnam and struggled for years with post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of exposure to Agent Orange defoliant, he said.
“We overcame so many difficulties … to bridge the gap between Japan and the United States,” said Furumoto, who now runs a real estate agency. The parade “brings out that we Asian Americans are a very vital and important part of New York City.”