SAN JOSE — Like cherry blossom festivals across the nation, the San Jose Japantown Nikkei Matsuri is the San Jose Japanese American community’s celebration of heritage and culture.
This festival is enjoyed by people of all ages and is centered at Jackson and 5th streets in San Jose Japantown, one of three remaining Japantowns in the nation.
This is the 34th year of the festival, which continues to be vibrant and dynamic. Drummers from San Jose Taiko begin the festival with a morning stroll through Japantown while the festival prepares for a day-long celebration.
Nikkei means “Japanese American” and matsuri means “festival.” Over 34 years ago, Nikkei Matsuri, which shared the Japanese American community’s culture with the city, was one of several ethnic community events in San Jose planned for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. The festival was so successful that it has continued since then.
The Nikkei Matsuri Committee, led by President Warren Hayashi, is composed of representatives of several non-profit organizations. Together, they coordinate a program of foods, performing arts, cultural exhibits, and arts and crafts with the goal of sharing and celebrating Japanese American culture in the heart of San Jose’s Japantown.
Nikkei Matsuri board members and coordinators include Jimi Yamaichi, Norman Tanaka, Larry Kaneshiro, Victor Imahara, Pam Yoshida, Sharon Siegenthaler, Kathy Linderman, Frank Tao, Vi Onishi, Ruby Kobashi and Gordon Koo.
Participating community organizations include San Jose Buddhist Church (Cub Scouts, Japanese Language School and Buddhist Women’s Association), Wesley United Methodist Church (Youth Group and congregation), San Jose JACL, Nisei Ski Club, San Jose-Okayama Sister City Organization Inc., YJA (Young Japanese Americans), San Jose Buddhist Judo Club, Northern California Kendo Federation, West Valley JACL and Silicon Valley JACL.
The festival features food booths with Japanese-themed delicacies such as gyoza, inari sushi, ika fry, yaki soba, tempura, udon, manju and chicken teriyaki. Non-traditional Japanese items include teriyaki burgers, Chinese chicken salad, snow cones, ice cream, Nikkei dogs, Spam musubi and strawberry shortcake.
Live entertainment on two stages will be featured throughout the day. On the Indoor Stage: Marimo-Kai (koto), students of Madame Michiya Hanayagi and Madame Bando Misayasu (Japanese classical dance), Chikaho Kai (Okinawan dance and drum), Oshiro Karate Dojo (Okinawan karate and weapon demonstration) and Silicon Valley Shorinji Kempo.
On the Outdoor Stage: CYS (Community Youth Services) Dance Group, students of Ukulele Jams, the Chidori Band (traditional Japanese music), the Wesley Jazz Ensemble, and San Jose Taiko.
Cultural exhibits show the community’s engagement in maintaining traditional arts from Japan. Two styles of flower arranging, Sogetsu and Ikenobo ikebana, will be displayed in the San Jose Buddhist Church gymnasium. In addition, there will be displays by the San Jose Bonsai Club, calligraphy from the Beikoku Shodo Kenkyu Kai, sculptural rocks by Kashu Suiseki Kai, and handcrafted kimekomi dolls by the Mataro Miyabi Kai Northern California Shibu.
A highlight of Nikkei Matsuri is the unique and one-of-a-kind arts and crafts by vendors from throughout the western U.S. and Hawaii. Over 60 vendors will line Jackson Street. All items are handcrafted and feature the use of Japanese traditional designs, materials and form in a contemporary art or craft. One might find soap in the shape of sushi, or clothing featuring shibori or kimono fabrics.
In addition to the Nikkei Matsuri events, local community organizations will host other activities during the day. These events include:
• Yu-Ai Kai’s Nihonmachi Run and Health Fair;
• Japantown Business Association’s weekly Farmers’ Market on Jackson Street between 6th and 7th streets;
• Suzume no Gakko’s children’s crafts at Wesley United Methodist Church;
• Japanese American Museum of San Jose’s Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) celebration, featuring Boys’ Day displays and activities for kids.
This year’s festival will also feature a visit from members of the 2011 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Nipponto (Japanese sword) Society, and others.
Organizers encourage festival-goers to plan to spend the entire day in order to fully enjoy the festival.
Nikkei Matsuri will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Information and schedules of performances are available at www.nikkeimatsuri.org or by contacting Warren Hayashi at (408) 241-0900.
The Mercury News is a sponsor of Nikkei Matsuri, which has been possible by a grant from the City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, Union Bank, Nikkei West newspaper, and Southwest Airlines.