Little Japan


photo: Japan-Tag Düsseldorf

Last week, my friend Anja was in Düsseldorf and we met for dinner. She told me she felt like she was abroad, in Asia actually, and she is not that wrong. We were out in the streets where there are especially many Japanese restaurants and Dizzel is known for very good sushi. (I don’t like sushi at all so it’s bit of a case of pearls for the swine.) Actually , Düsseldorf is the largest Japanese hub outside of Japan in the world.

I have been trying to find out why Düsseldorf is Germany’s Japantown. Nobody I asked seemed to know but I consider it unlikely that the Japanese chose Düsseldorf for its beauty or climate, so it’s probably some big Japanese employer that started the influx. Today, 11 000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, sSince the 1950s the town has hosted over 500 Japanese companies. Wikipedia even says that in 1977 a weekly Japanese newspaper was established.

Every year, the Japanese community gives back to its European hometown by hosting the Japan Day. I think that is a lovely tradition but since everyone scared me by saying there would be a lot of crazy manga-people running around town I was hesitant to participate. (Also, I woke up at 3 p.m. after an evening with my friend Maike that did not even result in going out, I suppose I am getting old.)

But I felt I need to integrate and seize the offers Dizzel makes me so I went to see the big fireworks that the Japan Day ends with. Especially for this half-hour-spectacle, they fly in pyrotechnicians from Japan and the fireworks go under a different topic every year. My co-worker who had seen it before, however, said, that they always seem to do the same thing and call it a different theme. “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test, everyone can see whatever they want in it”. She was quite right and it was amusing to hear the commentary of millions of people around us. Yes, millions, that’s what it felt like – the large bridges lined with countless people, all of the Rhine meadows full of manga-costumed folks. But the fireworks were nice! Next year, maybe I’ll even try some sushi.

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