Cherry Blossom Festival SoCal Celebrates 10th Year


A scene from last year's Cherry Blossom Festival.

The 10th annual Cherry Blossom Festival Southern California will be held in Little Tokyo on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entrance is at Temple and Alameda, next to the Little Tokyo Metro train stop. Admission is $1 general, free of children 3 and under.

Produced by an all-volunteer team led by Wendy Fujihara Anderson of Wow! Productions, the Cherry Blossom Festival SoCal promotes the culture of Americans of Japanese ancestry and the Japanese culture through the celebration of cherry blossoms. It was held in Pasadena for five years before moving to Little Tokyo.

The festival had 60,000 attendees in 2010. This year’s theme recognizes the history of Japanese Americans during the World War II era and the Japan Rebuild/10,000 Origami Cranes Project.

Opening ceremonies will be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Blossom Stage, followed by entertainment and, at 3 p.m., the Kimono Fashion Show, featuring Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry. On Sunday at 3:15 p.m., the Most Photogenic Dog Contest will be held. Hello Kitty will be a special guest throughout the weekend.

The festival will also include the Kids Zone; the Hawaiian Village; the Cultural Pavilion; the Martial Arts Arena; craft vendors; a food court and food trucks; the J-Pop Stage; and the Beer and Sake Garden, sponsored by Kirin and Sake Institute of America.

Ondo Dancing Circle

Join the Ondo Dancing Circle on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. on the Hawaiian Stage. Participating groups are Nippon Minyo Kenkyukai, Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple Obon Dancers and the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center Meiji Club Ondo Dancers.

Participants will learn the following dances, which are popular during Obon season: “Sakura Ondo,” “One Plus One,” “Hanabi Ondo,” “Hokkai no Abarembo,” “Kagoshima Ohara Bushi,” “Kyushu Tanko Bushi,” and “Shiawase Samba” (using “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson).

Kids Zone

Crafts in the Kids Zone may include fish kites, origami, cherry blossoms, pinwheels and paper lanterns. The Pacific Asia Museum will participate.

There will be storytelling by BookPals, a program of the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Foundation. The storytellers will be Nanciann Horvath on Saturday at 12 and 1 p.m., Larry Swanson on Saturday at 2 and 5 p.m., Phoenix Brown on Sunday at 12 and 1 p.m., and Sunny Stone on Sunday at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.

“Lazy Yoshi and the Bee Pollen” will be performed Saturday only at 2 and 4 p.m. by Mezclao, featuring Giovanni Ortega and Wes Cabrillo. It is an adaptation of a Filipino folk tale about Juan Tamad, a young man who always gets into trouble because of his laziness.

Cultural Pavilion

Exhibitors in the Cultural Pavilion will include Koyasan Boy Scouts, Stone Ishimaru (internment and Military Intelligence Service photo exhibit), Japanese American National Museum, Kimekomi Dolls, Ocean Origami Paper Shapers, Sashiko Embroidery, Manzanar Committee, Little Tokyo Service Center, and Japanese American Korean War Veterans. There will also be a Fred Korematsu Day exhibit.

Japan Relief

At the information booth, attendees can “adopt” an origami crane for $1 and sign it. The goal is to collect 10,000 cranes representing the ongoing commitment of the Cherry Blossom Festival to help rebuild Japan over the next five years. There will be other vendors providing services and selling items, donating 100 percent of their sales to Japan Rebuild. The U.S.-Japan Council will handle the donations.

Stage Events on Saturday

Opening ceremonies at 10:45 a.m. on the Blossom Stage. In recognition of the life-changing incidents during World War II that affected Japanese Americans as well as the ongoing Japan relief efforts, the ceremonies will be a reflective event combining elements to respect both occasions.

Participants will include Kodama Taiko and Koyasan Scout Troop 379 Color Guard. The national anthem and “I Am an American” will be sung by Kathy Bee. Welcoming remarks will be given by Hirotaka Kakita of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles. Aki Onouye will perform two songs in Japanese supporting Japan Rebuild, “Yamato” and “Kaachan.” Ty Inc. has donated 100 Beanie Babies that will be given away.

At 12:30 p.m. on the Blossom Stage, a presentation ceremony will be held for the Sen. Daniel Inouye Cherry Blossom Leadership Awards, George Kiriyama Educational Excellence Award, Community Treasure Awards, Blossom Award, and Teachers Making a Difference Awards.

Entertainment, with Lisa Kosugi as emcee, will include: Kathy Bee & Friends, The Red Hat Mamas, Fleet Easton and Mario Raven at 11:45 a.m.; Fujima Kansei Odori at  1:45 p.m.; Rob Narita and Loo Ow at 2 p.m.; Minyo Station at 2:30 p.m.; Kimono Fashion Show at 3 p.m.; Elvis impersonator Gary Jung at 5 p.m.

The Martial Arts Arena will feature Northern Shaolin at 11 and 11:30 a.m.; Shorin-Ryu Karate at 12 p.m.; Aikido Institute of America at 12:30 p.m.; Sityodtong USA-Muay Thai at 1 p.m.; Kage Ninjutsu at 1:30 p.m.; Goltz Judo Club at 2 p.m.; South Bay Jeet Kune Do at 2:30 p.m.; Paramount Karate at 3 p.m.; Atemi Ryu-Los Angeles at 3:30 p.m.; Balintawak International (Filipino martial arts) at 4 p.m.; Capoeira Batuque (Brazilian martial arts) at 4:30 p.m.

Entertainment on the Hawaiian Stage, emceed by Kamaka Brown, will feature Wahine Ilikea Dancers at 11 a.m.; Ho’aloha at 12 p.m.; Hawaiian Spendor Ka Hale Hula O Iolana at 1 p.m.; Ondo Dancing at 2 p.m.; Da Hawaiian Delites at 3 p.m.; Ka’amea at 4 p.m.; Halau Hula O Na Ka Lokelani at 5 p.m.; Ohana Polynesia Dancers at 5:45 p.m.

Entertainment on the J-Pop Stage, emceed by DJ Carmin Wong, will feature Ramen Tree at 11:30 a.m.; Choichi Kai at 12 p.m.; Stephanie Yanez at 1:15 p.m.; AniMaid Café and Harajuku Fashion Show at 1:45 p.m.; Dig Jelly at 3:30 p.m.; Ajuku Girls at 4:15 p.m.; and Senka at 5 p.m.

Stage Events on Sunday

Blossom Stage (emceed by Miyuki Matsunaga): Kotobuki no Kai, 11:30 a.m; Miyuki Matsunaga, 12 p.m.; Gina Hirazumi, 12:45 p.m.; Fujima Seiyumi Kai, 1:30 p.m.; Naoki Atkins, 2 p.m.; Walter Nishinaka of Matsubayashi-ryu Karate of Little Tokyo, 2:15 p.m.; Matsubayashi-ryu Karate of Little Tokyo, 2:45 p.m.; Best in Festival – Most Photogenic Dog Contest, 3:15 p.m.; Panache Orchestra, 4 p.m.

Martial Arts Arena: North Valley Aikikai, 12 p.m.; Monterey Park Karate Club, 12:30 p.m.; Kuk Sui Won, 1 p.m.; Villa Park Jiu-Jitsu, 1:30 and 2 p.m.; L.A. Wu Shu, 2:30 p.m.; Filipino Martial Heritage, 3 p.m.; Shinkendo, 3:30 p.m.; Systema (Russian martial arts), 4 p.m.

Hawaiian Stage: Oahu Hula Revue, 11 a.m.; Hula O’ Hoaloha, 12 p.m.; Halau Na Pua Lehua I Ka Ua Noe, 1 p.m.; Ondo Dancing, 2 p.m.; Halau Hula O’Nalikokauika-Wekiulani, 3 p.m.; Pumana, 4 p.m.

J-Pop Stage: Miwa Lyric, 11 a.m.; Mochi Café, 11:45 a.m.; Naoki Atkins, 12:30 p.m.; Hollywood Entertainment Academy and Fashion Show, 12:45 p.m.; Cherry Blossom Cosplay Contest, 2 p.m.; The Otafuku3, 3:45 p.m.; Big Bertha, 4:30 p.m.

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1 Comment

  1. How can I find out what year the following Obon songs were written? I don’t know know where to start looking. English Wikipedia and Google were useless.

    Gujo Bushi (Haru Kouma)
    Asadoya Yunta
    Hanagasa Odori
    Hokkai No Abarembo (I think it is by Takao Sahaku)
    A I U E Ondo
    Uki Uki Ondo

    Thank you!

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