JANM Celebrates Nisei Week with Natsumatsuri

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The festival features fun crafts for kids. (Photo by Richard Murakami)

The Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo, will present its 15th annual Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

One of the museum’s most popular and well-attended family events, the festival features a slate of unique cultural crafts, activities, and performances in conjunction with Little Tokyo’s 2013 Nisei Week festivities. The event is free and open to the public.

This year the festival premieres under its official new name, Natsumatsuri Family Festival, as it blends the old and new by setting customary Obon festival activities alongside contemporary ones. 

Historically, Obon is an important Japanese tradition in which many believe that their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family. Originally celebrated around the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, it is typically celebrated around Aug. 15 for a three-day period. The customs and dates followed vary from region to region. 

In the U.S. Japanese American communities have continued the Obon tradition with family festivities held throughout the summer months, such as Nisei Week. 

Paper hats were a popular craft at last year’s festival. (Photo by Richard Watanabe)

Throughout the day at JANM, visitors can enjoy special activities, including two crafts set up to spotlight its current temporary exhibitions — take a photograph and respond to the question “What are you?” in conjunction with “Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History” (through Aug. 25), and create a self-portrait in conjunction with “Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter” (through Sept. 22). 

Other activities include making a cool fan, a wacky paper hat, and an origami hopping frog, taking a picture wearing a yukata, making a tanzaku wish (a Japanese Tanabata festival summer tradition), and for children, playing in the bounce house and toddler play room, designing a special JANM Natsumatsuri tote bag (while supplies last), and getting an airbrush tattoo.

Visitors can also hone their skills with taiko drumming lessons at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and at an interactive Obon dance session at 2:30 p.m. 

At 1 p.m., Rev. Bill Briones of Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will discuss the history and traditions of Obon in Japan and the U.S.

At 4 p.m., the first-ever mariachi concert at JANM will be performed by Japanese mariachi singer Roger Del Norte with the mariachi band Mexicapan and special guest singer Lupita Infante.

The festival will close with a taiko performance by L.A. Matsuri Taiko.

For an updated schedule of events, visit www.janm.org or call (213) 625-0414.

The Natsumatsuri Family Festival will be held adjacent to the fifth annual Tanabata Festival, located in front of the Geffen Contemporary. For more information about the Tanabata Festival, which will continue on Sunday, visit www.niseiweek.org/tanabata-festival-splash.

Sponsors of the Natsumatsuri Family Festival are the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Media sponsors are The Rafu Shimpo and LA 18 KSCI-TV.

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