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Celebrate the New Year in Little Tokyo

The ritual shooting of the arrow is a highlight of Kotohajime, the first performance of the year, at the Japan America Theatre on Sunday, Jan. 2. (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)

JACCC Welcomes New Year with Kotohajime—Traditional first performance of the New Year to take place on Jan. 2.

To celebrate the new year, JACCC presents its annual Oshogatsu festivities with its signature New Year’s program, Kotohajime (First Performance of the New Year), on Sunday, Jan. 2, and the opening of the 13th annual Shikishi Exhibition.

Every January, Little Tokyo becomes the center for celebrating the Japanese New Year in Southern California, with the JACCC heading up the festivities with programs that invigorate the spirit and imagination. Literally meaning “the beginning of things,” Kotohajime will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with the theme titled “Hatsu Dayori” or “First Letters for the New Year.”

Curated by Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka, the original Kotohajime performance is a visual delight and artistic achievement, with performances by the Korean Classical Music Institute of America, taiko artist Koji Nakamura and shamisen player Mike Penny.

The ritual shooting of the arrow, a purification ceremony, will be performed by Ikkyu of the Los Angeles Kyudo Archery Group.

JACCC’s popular Shikishi Exhibition is an open call for community participation to create a “rich display of the collective voice of our diverse community.” The exhibit will run from Sunday, Jan. 2, to Feb. 27, 2011.

Shikishi are Japanese congratulatory cards of standard size, which have been used in Japan since the 12th century for painting and writing poetry. Today, these shikishi are given as gifts to mark a memorable or special occasion, and the use of this format is the requirement for participation in the exhibit. There will also be a $10 suggested entry fee.

For more information, call Gavin Kelley at (213) 628-2725, ext. 133 or visit www.jaccc.org.

JANM Hosts Free Oshogatsu Festival on Jan. 2—Free taiko performances, food tastings, arts & crafts on Jan. 2.

To open 2011, the Japanese American National Museum will once again hold its free annual Oshogatsu (New Year) Family Festival on Sunday, Jan. 2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at its facility in Little Tokyo, featuring taiko performances, food demonstrations and tastings, and arts and crafts related to the arrival of a new year.

At the MOCA Geffen facility (next door to JANM), a special Sunday Studio activity is planned from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

In the Asian zodiac, which features a cycle of 12 years, each year featuring a different animal, 2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit. For the occasion, hands-on activities include a Bunny Petting Party with Lil’ Red’s Buckaroo Ranch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Ruthie’s Origami Corner, where visitors can learn to make their own origami rabbit. Lil’ Red’s Buckaroo Ranch is a non-profit organization. Its proceeds go towards the care, rehabilitation and re-homing of Red’s Ranch Animal Rescue farm animals.

Also geared for the whole family is the New Year’s-inspired papel picado (perforated paper) with educator Marcelino Sifuentes of MyPapelPicado.com. Papel picado is a unique folk art often used in celebrations in Mexico. Sifuentes will show participants how to make their own.

Other activities available throughout the day are the materials to make rabbit ears and a pinwheel. Visitors can take their chances in the Museum Store by purchasing a fukubukuro (lucky bag) that always contains more than the purchase price. A Toddler Room is also available all day.

Food activities feature the making of zaru soba, a Japanese New Year’s favorite, with Kidding Around the Kitchen from 1 to 4 p.m. and organic/vegan Asian-inspired cooking classes at 12 noon and 2 p.m. with Spork Foods. Kidding Around the Kitchen shows that families can make and eat food together without a lot of fuss or a huge time commitment. For more information on the organization, visit www.kiddingaroundthekitchen.com/.

Spork Foods is a Los Angeles-based gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Jenny and Heather Goldberg. Their delicious, innovative cuisine emphasizes organic, local, and seasonal ingredients. The classes (first-come, first-served, 20-person limit per class) will make the following food: Wok-tossed green beans with pickled vegetables; Asian coleslaw with a creamy black sesame dressing; and crispy rice cakes with azuki beans and scallions. For more information, visit www.sporkfoods.com.

At 1 p.m. author Susan Lendroth will read her children’s book, “Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat.” Maneki neko, stylized representations of a cat sitting on its back legs with one front paw raised as if waving, are commonly displayed in businesses in Japan, welcoming visitors. But the actual origin of this famous Japanese symbol is told in many ways. Lendroth’s story focuses on a samurai, a monk and a cat. Her book is available for purchase at the Museum Store.

Drumming will dominate the outdoor stage presentations, beginning at 2 and at 3:30 p.m. with Drumtime. In Drumtime’s drum circle, visitors have the opportunity to express their uniqueness and contribute to a greater whole. The circle transforms a gathering of people, most with no prior musical experience, into a percussion orchestra. For more information, go to www.drumtime.net.

At 2:30 and 4 p.m., Kodama Taiko will give its famous mochitsuki demonstration while performing on taiko. Kodama’s performances combine the age-old tradition of hand-pounding mochi with the sounds of drums. This energetic custom is typically performed during the Japanese New Year. For more information, go to www.kodamataiko.com.

The day’s activities will conclude with a performance by TAIKOPROJECT, one of the premier taiko groups in the country, at 4:30 p.m. Through performance and education, TAIKOPROJECT is committed to preserving taiko as a dynamic element of Japanese American culture and heritage. To learn more, go to www.taikoproject.com/.

At the Geffen, visitors will be privy to a guided tour of MOCA’s Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space show. Artist Janice Gomez will be on hand to teach participants to make a work of art that allows them to experience art in a new and different way.

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