By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
“This year’s festival has been one great success and the community spirit has been shown throughout Little Tokyo,” said Terry Hara, president of the Nisei Week Foundation, as Nisei Week concluded Sunday with a community ondo on First Street.
The celebration capped what was a successful Nisei Week, with the addition of the Tanabata Festival, the return of the Nebuta floats and a new energy in Little Tokyo as crowds of people came to enjoy the many events.
“It’s very, very exciting. I noticed there were a lot more people this year,” said Christine Inouye of Nippon Minyo Kenkyukai. “This year I really got my energy for the parade from the crowd, so it was a whole different experience for me.”
Hundreds formed a giant oval on First Street and danced to both new and classic ondo songs, including “Ichi Tasu Ichi” (One Plus One), “Tanko Bushi” and “Sho Tokyo Ondo.” Madame Sanjo Kangiku led the colorful procession of dancers, joined by Councilmember Jan Perry, Nisei Week Queen Dana Fujiko Heatherton, the Nisei Week court and the many festival volunteers.
The ondo is a low-key event and one last chance for the dance groups to get together and celebrate after a busy obon season. Among the groups to join in included dancers from East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, Japanese American National Museum, Keiro and Awa Odori dancers. There was also a contingent dressed as Michael Jackson in spangled black jackets and white gloves.
“We’re the Michael Jackson obon jivers from Neverland temple,” said Dave Saika of Gardena. “We’re just gonna do the odori the way it was meant to be, just in a different costume, celebrating Michael Jackson.”
Zendeko Taiko group performed at the beginning of the ceremony. The weekend also featured a summer festival sponsored by the Japanese Student Network, the “Next Generation Remix 2009: Community Reborn” concert and a gyoza-eating contest.