As another successful Nisei Week Japanese Festival comes to a close, the public is invited to gather on the streets of Little Tokyo to celebrate with the ondo street dancing and closing ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 21. The ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. and commence with a special taiko performance by Taiko Project, followed by the traditional “ondo” or “street dancing.”
Everyone is encouraged to participate—young and old—all can come out and dance on Little Tokyo’s First Street. A fun time for all—whether dressed in yukata (Japanese summer kimono) or in shorts and a T-shirt.
Nisei Week’s annual raffle winners will also be drawn, and the grand prize is two business class round-trip tickets to Japan on American Airlines, the official airline sponsor of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival.
The 2011 Nisei Week choreographer is Madame Bando Mitsuhiro, who has choreographed two dances, “Ai wa Katsu” by Kan and “Omikoshi.” The six other dances include “Kyushu Tanko Bushi,” “Kagoshima Ohara Bushi,” “Aizu Bandai San,” “Ichi Tatsu Ichi,” “Shiawase Samba,” “Sho Tokyo Ondo” and “Asadoya Yunta.” This year, Minyo Station will perform live dance music. For more info, contact Miles Hamada, Ondo and Closing Ceremony Chairman at [email protected] or (323) 620-0662.
The Bando Mitsuhiro Kai is under the direction of head instructor Madame Bando Mitsuhiro who has been teaching Japanese classical dance for 62 years, 42 of those years in the United States.
Bando sensei, who turned 83 this year, was born in Yawatahama City in Ehime prefecture, in southern Japan on the island of Shikoku. She began Japanese classical dance lessons at the age of four, and during the course of her training, studied under Kabuki actor and Bando School Headmaster Bando Mitsugoro VIII, who has been recognized as a National Living Treasure of Japan.
After teaching Japanese dance in Japan for 20 years, she visited Los Angeles to see her aunt. On an outing to a kenjin kai picnic (prefectural gathering), she saw a Japanese dance program performed on stage. That experience and the encouragement of her relatives led to her permanent move to the U.S. in 1969, with the goal of teaching true Japanese classical dance. She has taught Japanese dance to students in studios in Los Angeles, San Diego, Vista, Santa Monica, Huntington Beach, Monterey and Tacoma, Washington, and has awarded her top students with 28 natori (rank with professional stage name) and 11 shihan (teaching certificates) titles in the United States. She has participated in the Nisei Week Japanese Festival from the 1970s and has choreographed parade dances on many occasions, most recently in 2005.
Her students have presented Japanese dance programs in Canada and in cities across the U.S., including popular local venues such as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Japan Expo, the Japan America Theatre, and Asian cultural festivals. For her lifetime contributions to the Japanese American community, she was awarded 2006 Woman of the Year by the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens’ League and the Japanese Women’s Society, and was selected as one of the 2008 Los Angeles Nisei Week Pioneers. She was also presented with the prestigious Chokumon Shihan title by Grand Master of the Bando School in Tokyo, renowned Kabuki and television actor Bando Mitsugoro X.
Today, her students range in age from the youngest, three-year-old preschool children to seniors well into their 80s. Their language abilities vary as well, from fluent Japanese native speakers to American born non-Japanese speaking students. But somehow, through the language of dance, she is able to communicate and promote this cultural art.
The Festival takes place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district from August 13-21. For a calendar of events and volunteer info, go to www.NiseiWeek.org or call (213) 687-7193. The office is at 244 S. San Pedro St., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Gyoza Eating Contest at JACCC Plaza
Big drums and big eaters will take the spotlight for the second weekend of Nisei Week at the JACCC Plaza.
On Sat., Aug. 20, the 71st annual Los Angeles Nisei Week Japanese Festival will host the fifth annual Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship, an official Major League Eating (MLE) event featuring 100-pound eating sensation Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas.
For the event, 20 competitors, consisting of both professional MLE eaters and local amateurs, will take aim at a $5,000 cash purse. Competitors will have 10 minutes to eat as many Day-Lee Pride brand gyoza (Japanese potstickers) as possible. The event takes place at 1:30 p.m. at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) Plaza in Little Tokyo.
There will also be a sumo demonstration by Troy Collinsand demonstrations of Nippon Kempo by the American Nippon Kempo Foundation. Ramen Tree and Random Ninjas are also scheduled to perform.
On Sunday, Aug. 21, some of the best local taiko groups will be performing at the annual Taiko Gathering held from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the JACCC Plaza. For more information, visit www.jaccc.org.