SEJSCC’s 54th Festival and Ondo This Weekend

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“Soran Bushi” performance at SEJSCC’s festival. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

NORWALK — The Southeast Japanese School and Community Center in Norwalk will celebrate its 54th annual Cultural Festival and Ondo on Saturday, July 22, from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Sunday, July 23, from 2 to 8 p.m.

The festival had its beginnings in 1963 when Mary Uwate, PTA president, suggested having an end-of-the-school-year get-together with students, parents, and friends of the community center. To make the day more enjoyable, the PTA rented and made some games for the children. The parents cooked up a feast of their favorite foods, and ended the day with traditional folk dances that celebrate the end of a successful harvest in Japan.

Today, the festival still has the friendly family atmosphere. There’ll be games from Pull String and Ping Pong Toss to a new Cannonball Air Blaster. The various organizations and individuals showcase their activities, such as ikebana; martial arts demonstrations of judo, karate, kendo, and iaido; Hawaiian dance and music; Japanese classical dance; koto; and karaoke. (Karaoke fans can bring their CDs and join open-mic sessions outside.) Watch Hikari Taiko as they rhythmically reach for the heavens with their bachi (drumsticks).

After taiko, everyone is invited to join the dance circle and celebrate the summer with ondo dancing. The dances are simple with a few repetitive steps. Just follow the dancers in the inner circle or the dancers next to you. The most important part of ondo is to participate and have FUN as you enjoy the festive spirit and camaraderie of the dances.

Come hungry and bring your appetite for the delicious food. You’ll find the traditional favorites of udon, sushi, yakisoba, chicken teriyaki, Imagawayaki and more. Other favorites include Spam musubi, fried wonton, chili rice, char siu bao, Chef Long’s famous Orange Chicken, pork ribs, and snow cones.

And don’t worry about parking — there will be plenty at Lampton Elementary School, 14716 Elmcroft Ave.

Southeast Japanese School and Community Center is located at 14615 Gridley Rd. For information, call (562) 863-5996 or go online to http://sejscc.org.

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