By JUNKO YOSHIDA, Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
Japanese food and traditional arts were introduce at Japan Fair 2015, held Sept. 26 and 27 at Noguchi Plaza in front of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo.
Featuring for the first time the Japan Film Festival and murals made of multicolored flower petals using an Italian technique known as “infiorata,” this year’s event also included booths offering Japanese food, such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki, and products from various prefectures (ken), plus a beer garden and place to sample sake.
Performances on the outdoor stage included taiko, shamisen, koto, minyo, classical dance, karate, a children’s choir, and a kimono fashion show.
This year’s theme was “Children, Our Future.” As the Japanese American community ages, the children “are the ones who will carry on our culture and traditions here in the U.S.,” explained Yoshio Lee Aoki, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Another goal of the event, now in its second year, is to strengthen collaboration among Nikkei community organizations, he said, noting that there are more than 100 nonprofit organizations in the community, the bonds between them are often lacking. The main sponsors of this year’s Japan Fair are JCCF, JACCC and Orange County Japanese American Association.
In order to distinguish Japan Fair from other cultural events, organizers seek to introduce people who have never visited Japan to many things the country has to offer, with the support of the governments of Shimane, Aichi, Fukuoka, Ibaraki and other prefectures.
At the JACCC, visitors experienced the beauty of Japan through Edo-period paintings from the collection of Joe and Etsuko Price as well as ikebana arrangements by local groups.
Yasuhiko Fujikawa, an art director from Japan, created large mosaics on the plaza with flower petals, using a traditional Italian technique known as “infiorata.” With the participation of fair-goers, some 12,000 flower petals were used to make three pictures. About eight hours of work over the two days were required.
The film festival featured “The Man of the Tokyo Olympics,” a portrait of the late Fred Wada, one of the founders of Keiro Nursing Home in Boyle Heights, who was instrumental in bringing the 1964 Olympics to Tokyo. Also shown were the Los Angeles premiere of the animated film “Yo-kai Watch”; the live-action film “Attack on Titan: Hangeki no Noroshi,” based on the popular manga; “The Hybrid”; and the short film “Umigame no Yakusoku” (The Sea Turtle’s Promise).
Actors Naoko Ken (“The Hybrid”), Ryuji Aoki (“Umigame no Yakusoku”) and Rina Takeda (“Hangeki no Noroshi”) came from Japan to speak onstage at the screenings.
According to Aoki, because of the intense heat this year, it appeared that attendance was down from the more than 6,000 who came last year. Regarding proceeds from this year’s event, he said that the foundation is thinking of donating them to community organizations that are in need.
— Photos by JUNKO YOSHIDA/Rafu Shimpo. Translated by J.K. Yamamoto