George Takei spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about being named Grand Marshal of NYC’s first ever Japan Parade taking place by Central Park this Saturday, May 14 at 1:00 pm ET.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): What does it mean to you to be named the inaugural Grand Marshal for New York City’s first ever Japan Parade as part of Japan Day?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well, we’ve been quarantined for two and a half years now, all of us from coast to coast. As a matter of fact, all over the world. And so it’s time for celebration! We hope that the virus is ending.
I am very honored to be the Grand Marshal of the very first, inaugural Japan Parade concluding with Japan street festival.
It’s time to celebrate not only springtime, but the summertime. We’re doing it with the first ever Japan Parade displaying all the classical delights of Japanese culture, as well as the contemporary parts of Japanese culture, which has become popular and exclusively loved throughout the world, Anime and Manga.
There’s going to be I believe 80 floats or groups parading with us. It’s going to be varied, diverse, and coming this Saturday, starting from 81st street, down Central Park West all the way to 68th street.
And it’s concluding with a street fair, displaying all of the delights of Japanese culture, the tasty parts of the culture! Ramen, Manju, Mochi. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
With the Japan Parade and the Japan Street Festival, we’re getting the richness, the deliciousness, the loveliness, the folk dancing and the beautiful kimonos that they’re gonna be wearing as well as fun anime and manga characters.
As well as martial arts. So it’s gonna be a great celebratory Saturday of celebrating the Japanese culture and Japanese American culture.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: When I look at how Anime NYC at Javits Center has seen tremendous, exponential growth in attendance year after year, I have to wonder… Do you think generations from now NYC’s Japan Parade will rival Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in popularity one day? Do you hope for that?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well, this is the very beginning and it’s already 80 floats. But the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is how many decades old? It took a long time for it to become that gigantic affair and that’s in the fall of Thanksgiving.
So the weather is not as conducive. This one is gonna be in the latter spring and the early summer. So it’s gonna be a great parade.
I am sure we can look forward to it growing and prospering and having a great celebration. Everybody loves a parade.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Were you first personally approached by the Japanese Consulate General in New York for the honor of Grand Marshal?
GEORGE TAKEI: You know, New York is special. It’s the most populous, biggest and most dynamic city in the world. The person who contacted us, who represents that office, is referred to as the Ambassador.
That’s how important New York is! They send an Ambassador to do the job of a Consulate General and yes, he was the initiator.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon will have a live performance this Saturday by Central Park as part of the Japan Day Parade. Are you a fan of Anime yourself?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well, when I was a kid, I loved comic books and Japanese animation and manga. But today, I have very little time for manga and I try to just keep up with the films coming from studios as well as TV shows. So I must say, I am not a person who’s been exposed to contemporary anime & manga.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What’s your favorite Japanese street food by the way?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well in general sushi is my favorite Japanese food but I don’t think they’re going to have sushi because of the perishability of fish. They are gonna have Manju, which is pounded rice made into a gummy mass. Manju is where it’s made into a ball, but filled with the sweet bean paste. And I love those!
If you haven’t ever had Manju, you should try it. There’s one Manju that I’ve never heard of that I’m looking forward to tasting. It’s called a Manju Donut.
I love Manju and I love donuts, but I’ve never had a Manju Donut! And I sort of think it’s gonna be very fatting! (laughs)
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: It’s the 150th anniversary of the introduction of baseball to Japan. The sport has absolutely surged in popularity there ever since. What do you attribute to the popularity of baseball in Japan?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well, as a matter of fact, the parade is in part a celebration of and an expression of appreciation to the United States for sharing baseball, which is the American national pastime. But now it is the national sport of Japan as well.
Shohei Ohtani is now a big star from Japan, with the Los Angeles Angels. So that is an example of the mutual give and take & enriching each other’s culture. The Japanese are baseball fanatics as are Americans.
Americans found a lot of other sports to be fanatical about. But baseball is certainly one of them that’s shared by the people of Japan and they’re sharing their great star players now with the United States.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Are you a baseball fan yourself?
GEORGE TAKEI: My father was a baseball fan when he was growing up in San Francisco. He was a member of a baseball team, and that team traveled all around the bay area, playing other Japanese American teams. Like the Palo Alto, Japanese American baseball team, or San Jose team or Oakland team or Berkeley team. And so my father took me as a kid to see the Los Angeles Angels.
We went to Wrigley Field in LA. Also we had another baseball stadium called Gilmore Field. So I was the son of a baseball fan.
He loved baseball and my brother Henry did take after him, but alas his son, George was more infatuated with the theater and movies & films. But he never showed his disappointment.
He thought love and passion for culture was a fine hobby. When he discovered that I wanted to make it my career, he was not too kindly disposed. As a matter of fact, my father was in real estate by that time.
And he dropped every hint that he wanted me to be an architect. I think he had it in the back of his mind, the thought of putting out a sign with Takekuma and son real estate development. Where I would design the projects and he would develop the projects.
And so I started my college career as an architecture student at UC Berkeley. But after two years, I couldn’t put out a fire that was burning inside me. And so I came back down to Los Angeles to have a heart to heart talk with my father.
I said, I want to go to New York and study at the Actors Studio where all the great actors were coming from. Marlon Brando, Montgomery Cliff, James Dean.
I think my father had kind of prepared himself for this because he said, “The actor studio is a fine acting school. But when you finish there, they won’t give you a diploma that says you are a legitimately educated person, your mother, and I want you to have at least a college degree, a Bachelor’s degree. So I’ve done a little research and I know that here in town at UCLA, they have a fine theater arts department.
And if you study there and complete your studies and get that degree, that’s what your mother and I would like you to have.” And so you are a kid you’re gonna insist on going to New York. So keep in mind, New York is a crowded place.
It’s a competitive place and it’s an expensive place and you have to be prepared to do it all on your own. However, if you go to UCLA, you’ll have subsidy. So you decide on the Actors Studio on your own or UCLA with subsidy.
I discovered I couldn’t say no to my father! (laughs) And so I went to UCLA as a theater student and I got my Bachelors & my Masters and my father was happy.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you believe Japan Day and the first ever Japan Parade celebration will act as a kind of milestone in advancing the #StopAsianHate Campaign?
GEORGE TAKEI: Well, I feel that curating and sharing our cultural heritage is more the polar opposite. So I would not put it in the same category. That’s something hateful, ignorant, and racist going on.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What are your feelings on the future of streaming as an actor? Do you think it’s giving young actors a better chance for exposure or the lack of a central platform like television was makes everything fragmented in a way?
GEORGE TAKEI: I think that there’s more opportunities being created for actors to practice their craft and be paid.
But at the same time, because of the plethora of material, it’s gonna be that much more difficult for the really talented ones to rise up and gain singular success.
So yes, more opportunities, but more challenging to rise up above, to be a star.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Great to talk you again George!
GEORGE TAKEI: Great talking with you too! Take care. Live long and prosper!
– Check out Part 2 of our Interview with George Takei on Yakuza: Like A Dragon.
Japan Parade & Japan Day Information:
“Beginning on Central Park West at West 81st Street and traveling south to West 68th Street, the Japan Parade will feature live appearances by the cast of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” The Super Live, Hello Kitty, Cobu, Soh Daiko, Japanese Folk Dance of NY, Kazanami Yosakoi Dance Project, Tate Hatoryu, International Karate Organization Kyokushin-kaikan, Anime NYC, and many others.
George Takei will serve as the parade’s inaugural Grand Marshal, and Sandra Endo, news correspondent on KTVV Los Angeles, Fox 11 News and feature reporter for Good Day LA, will serve as Emcee of the parade. Participating groups will show Japan’s various attractions, such as culture, tradition, sports, music, cosplay, etc. for everyone’s enjoyment.
There will also be a Japan Street Fair from 1:00pm – 4:30pm on 69th Street. (between Central Park West and Columbus Ave.)”
Date: Saturday, May 14 2022
Time: 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm ET
Learn more at Japan Parade’s official website!
Fun Fact: “2022 marks the 150th anniversary of the introduction of baseball to Japan from the U.S., which remains very popular to this day.”
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More NYC Local News coverage
– Watch and read the transcript: Makoto Matsuda talks “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” The Super Live (Interview)
– Check out the Norman Reedus book signing at NYC’s McNally Jackson on May 10
– Be sure to read Japan Society sells out ‘Ghost in the Shell’ NYC film screening
– More popular every year: Anime NYC 2019: ‘Food Wars!’ Screening packs house
– Check out the NYC Local News section for more exclusives spotlighting the city.