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Japanese girls of the dancing group dressed in kimonos ☆ Japanese girls from the dancing group dressed in kimonos
Once in the year in spring or early summer season Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia invites people for the "Japan Day". The Nihon Day (日本 デ ー) is organized by the town Düsseldorf, different Japanese associations and other partners, including the prefecture Chiba in Japan (as part of a communal partnership) and was held for the 15th time on May 21st this year. The German Japanese congress festival is one of the most important culture events of the area and the biggest Japan-related event in Germany. Visited by more than half a million people annually, it should have been 750,000 visitors on the penultimate weekend in May according to media. Similar record numbers already occurred in some of the previous years.
Every year you're offered a varied program of sports, music and dancing on three stages, which also includes performances of artists coming directly from Japan - sometimes regarding pop culture, sometimes classical acts. On one end of the festival there is a samurai army camp, that showcases armaments and weapons of Japan’s bygone times and different martial arts clubs display performances.
Dōmo-kun, mascot of the TV channel NHK ☆ Dōmo-kun, mascot of the TV channel NHK.
Also this year stalls with Japanese art and culture goods as well as manga merchandise and information material about different Japan-related topics were lined up along the Rhine River waterside promenade. The prefectures Chiba and Fukushima introduced themselves, the Japanese airline ANA All Nippon Airways had an information stall and the Japanese TV channel NHK let its mascot Dōmo-kun (a brown plushy monster with sharp teeth) pose for photos. You could learn playing go (Japanese board game), take part in the manga drawing competition or take on a kimono.
While you could get (quite expensive) Japanese tableware, hair accessories, keychains or sweets at some stalls, the felt majority of the stallholder seemed to concentrate on a sufficient assortment of collection figures, plush toys and cosplay supplies - each for a horrendous price - but indeed demand-oriented. To cope with the immense onrush of fan groups, some traders not only settled with stalls under the typical white tents along the Rhine River waterside promenade, but had also rent some shop premises in the near historic city of Düsseldorf, where figures and plushies were stacked until reaching the ceiling.
Still bestsellers are my beloved Nemu Nekos (sleeping cats) in different colors and sorts (this year especially in the lemon and orange version ^^) and plushy llamas (commonly in different pastel colors). The newest trend this year seems to be the cuddly sheep with mini-legs and twisted ram hornies - the same colorful. Yeah, yeah, due to this range of plushies even adults can swoon over… ° For a big plush toy you had to fork out 30, - Euro occasionally, more little versions were gettable for the half. Collection figures were available until the xxx, -Euro price range in fact. The incredibly high prices for most of the goods seemed to be an abiding theme among the visitors as you could hear everywhere - but well, people paid it in the end. 😉
Japanese sweets ☆ Japanese sweets
The food range in opposite was again less sensational. Far too less in quantity and choice and too concentrated (just next to two of the three stages, not along the long promenade) it can be seen as one of the Japan Day's negative aspects and does not reflect at all the various culinary culicacies that are offered in Japan or in the many restaurants in the Japanese district of Düsseldorf. Snacks like pan-fried noodles, Pan-Asian spring rolls or a simple ramen soup-to-go surely don't attract people to stand for hours in the queue just to notice that the food is sold out when they're next in the line. Therefore you should take snacks with you, adjust yourself to headaches or eat something in one of the many cafés and restaurants nearby.
Also the sustenance concerning beverages could be better. In the afternoon you couldn't get a glass of water (!) Near the main stage anymore - only juices, lemonades and alcoholic drinks.
Another minus aspect - also in combination with the lack of beverages - is of course the crowding on this mass event. Many goods of the stalls you can only have a look at, if you're waiting half an hour or so in front of it, trying to get closer to the first line - so many people are gathering around the tents. Also the trains on the way to the festival and especially back are overcrowded, though guests coming from areas nearby will find it much more difficult to travel back home than vacationers and daily visitors who are staying in the hotels in the city center.
Nevertheless I think the atmosphere on the Japan Day is very nice. People are all kind and open-minded and there are far less drunk persons and scattered garbage than for example on the Blossoming of Trees Festival in Werder, that is unfortunately attracting a more and more improper conducting audience.
The many cosplayers (that means visitors who are costumed related to manga or anime figures), who like to pose, are fashioning the Japan Day into a veritable photo event. Every second visitor brings along a camera or takes photos with his smartphone - among them also professional photographers - and the range of the most diverse, sometimes very elaborate, costumes of manga, anime, games, Japanese Street Fashion and freestyle is huge.
Have a look at the following photos: 🙂
Often mentioned as another point of criticism is the Japan Day’s development from a cultural exchange festival into a manga convention. Cosplayers are increasingly constituting the image of the festival visitors and also the amount of stalls for the topics manga, anime, cosplay seems to exceed the ones for traditional Japanese goods and art soon.
Cosplayers and manga devotees on the other side contend, that their passion would constitute a not insignificant part of the Japanese culture and therfore fit the Japan Day very well.
Basically I can understand both sides. Although I would consider it reasonable to limit the stalls with figures and plush toys, I didn’t like to miss the Japanese pop culture and especially the cosplayers on this event. 🙂
But to get back to the positive aspects of the festival, I have to say, that joining the Japan Day (no matter if interested into the traditional or pop culture) is definitely worth it!
In the end of the Japan Day a large 25-minutes themed fireworks show is closing the festival every year. This year the motto was “Trees, flowes, animals - the world of nature”. With a bit imagination the audience should spot fish in the blue ocean, butterflies, pigs, flowers, golden palms and rainbows in the night sky during the 5-part presentation. A luminous golden shower is traditionally finishing the show. Indeed I could discover palms and butterflies. Too bad, that the fireworks are not accompanied with music, but it was gorgeous anyway. 🙂
Following posts related to Düsseldorf:
★ The Japanese district in Düsseldorf: supermarkets & bakeries
★ The Japanese district in Düsseldorf: Okonomiyaki, Ramen & More
Once a year in spring or early summer, Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia invites you to "Japan Day". Nihon Day (日本 デ ー) is organized by the city of Düsseldorf, various Japanese associations and other partners, including the Chiba Prefecture in Japan (as part of a community partnership) and took place for the 15th time this year on May 21, 2016. The German-Japanese festival is one of the most important cultural events in the area and the largest Japan-related event in Germany. Visited annually by more than half a million people, according to the media there were 750,000 visitors on the penultimate weekend in May. There were similar record numbers in a few other years before.
Every year a diverse program of sport, music and dance is offered on three stages, which also includes performances by artists who have come from Japan - sometimes pop culture, sometimes classical performances. At one end of the festival there is a samurai army camp displaying Japanese armor and weapons from bygone times, and various martial arts clubs offer demonstrations.
This time too, along the promenade along the Rhine, there were stalls with Japanese art and cultural objects, as well as anime merchandise and information material on various Japan-related topics. The prefectures of Chiba and Fukushima introduced themselves, the Japanese airline ANA All Nippon Airways had an information booth and the Japanese television station NHK had its mascot Dōmo-kun (a brown plush monster with sharp teeth) pose for photos. You could learn to play go (Japanese board game), take part in the manga drawing competition, or try on a kimono.
While there were (quite expensive) Japanese crockery, hair accessories, key chains or sweets at some stands, the apparent majority of the stand owners concentrated on a sufficient range of collectible figurines, plush toys and cosplay accessories - each at horrendous prices - but based on their needs. In order to be able to do justice to the onslaught of fan groups, some dealers were apparently not only satisfied with stalls under the typical white tents on the Rhine promenade, but also rented shop space in the nearby old town of Düsseldorf, where figures and plushies were piled up to the ceiling.
My favorites are still big sellers, the Nemu Nekos (sleeping cats) in a wide variety of colors and shapes (this year mainly in the lemon and orange variants ^^) and plush llamas (mostly in bright pastel colors). The latest trend from this year is probably the cuddly sheep with stubby legs and twisted croissants - just as colorful. Yes, with so much plush selection, even adults can quickly become weak ... ° For a large stuffed animal you sometimes had to shell out 30 euros, smaller versions were available for half of the price. There were even collectible figures in the three-digit range. The unbelievably high prices for most goods remained a constant topic among visitors, as you could hear everywhere - people bought anyway. 😉
The choice of food, on the other hand, remained unspectacular as usual. Far too little in quantity and choice and too concentrated (only on two of the three stages, not along the long promenade) it is probably one of the negative points of Japan Day and does not even remotely reflect what is in the culinary rich Japan and in the numerous Restaurants in Düsseldorf's Japan Quarter. Fried noodles, Pan-Asian spring rolls or a simple ramen soup-to-go certainly don't entice you to queue for hours only to find out that it's sold out when it's your turn. You should therefore take small snacks with you, be prepared for a headache that day or dine in one of the many cafes and restaurants in the area.
The beverage supply could also be better. There is no place to buy something to drink along the long promenade. In the afternoon there was no more glass of water (!) On the big stage - only juices, lemonades and alcoholic drinks.
Another minus point - also in combination with the lack of fluids - is of course the abundance at this mass event. You only get to see many of the stands if you wait at least what feels like half an hour in front of them and work your way forward - that's how crowded the tents are. The trams on the outward and especially the return journey are also overcrowded, although guests from the surrounding regions have a much more difficult time making the way home than holidaymakers and day visitors who come from the hotels in the city center.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, the atmosphere on Japan Day is very nice. The people are all very friendly and open-minded and there are significantly fewer people drunk and littered around than, for example, at the tree blossom festival in Werder, which unfortunately attracts more and more unsuitable audiences.
The many cosplayers (visitors dressed up based on Manga and Anime characters) who like to pose, make Japan Day a real photo event. Every second visitor has a camera with them or takes photos with their smartphone - including many professional photographers - and there is a large selection of the most varied, sometimes very elaborate, costumes from manga, anime, games, Japanese street fashion and freestyle.
Often mentioned as a point of criticism is the increasing shift of Japan Day from a cultural exchange festival to a manga convention. Cosplayers increasingly determine the image of the guests and the number of stands in the manga, anime and cosplay areas is likely to soon exceed that of traditional goods and arts.
Cosplayers and Manga fans argue, however, that their passion is a not insignificant part of Japanese culture and therefore fits in well with Japan Day.
Basically, I can understand both views. Although I would consider a restriction of the figure and stuffed animal stands to be sensible, I would not like to miss the Japanese pop culture and especially cosplayers at this event. 🙂
But to get back to the positive points of the festival, I have to say that a visit for Japan fans (regardless of whether they are interested in traditional or pop culture) is definitely worth it!
Each year, Japan Day ends with a large 25-minute themed fireworks display. This year the motto was "Trees, flowers, animals - the world of nature". With a little imagination, the audience should be able to see fish in the blue ocean, butterflies, pigs, flowers, golden palms and rainbows in the night sky in the 5-part performance. The finale is traditionally a bright laburnum. I could actually spot palm trees and butterflies. It's a shame that the fireworks weren't accompanied by music, but it was still beautiful. 🙂
The following articles on the topic of Düsseldorf:
★ The Japanese quarter in Düsseldorf: supermarkets & bakeries
★ The Japanese quarter in Düsseldorf: Okonomiyaki, Ramen & Co
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