The ninth annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival was held on Aug. 19 and 20 in Little Tokyo, preceded by an opening ceremony on the night of Aug. 18.
The festival displayed 120 kazari (large paper ornaments) at the outdoor space near the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and the Japanese American National Museum. Anchored by award-winning kazari shipped from Sendai in northeastern Japan, are created by members of the community.
Kazari were judged in six categories: Anime/Manga, Business, Government, Individuals/Families, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, and institutions/nonprofits organizations.
The Founder’s Award is selected from the first-place winners of the six categories. Judges were Leiton Hashimoto, Nisei Week Foundation president; Deputy Consul General Kazutoshi Hayashi, Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles; Gary Mayeda, JACL national president; and Yasumasa Hirayama, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California. The People’s Choice Award recipient was chosen by those who attended the festival on Saturday.
Judges for the overall contest were Angela DeGroot, Japanese Village Plaza; Ellen Endo, Little Tokyo Business Association; Nancy Okubo, Union Bank; Maria Kwong, Japanese American National Museum; Kihei Otani, Orange County Japanese American Association; Queen Jaclyn Tomita, First Princess Megan Ono, Miss Tomodachi Julia Tani, Princess April Nishinaka and Princess Shannon Tsumaki of the 2016 Nisei Week Court; Yasue Clark, Little Tokyo Service Center; Helen Ota, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center; Tomoko Sakuta, Japan Foundation; Woody Scofield, Museum of Contemporary Art; Susan Yokoyama, Pacific Citizen.
Many participants entered multiple kazari in different categories or brought kazari from previous years to try to capture an award. First- through fifth-place awards wre bestowed in each of the six categories.
With “Heroes” as the theme, the winning entries were:
Founder’s Award – Overall Winner
All Nippon Airways
1st — ANA
2nd — Anzen
3rd — Japanese Restaurant News
1st — Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell
2nd — Consulate General of Japan
3rd — Supervisor Hilda Solis
4th — San Gabriel Valley Service Center
1st — America Miyazaki Kenjinkai
2nd — Nicholas Gladkov
3rd — Nerv
4th — Yonezawa grandchildren
5th — Yonezawa grandchildren
1st — Landon N. Novo
2nd — Gregory Gladkov
3rd — Miyako Kadogawa
4th — Poppy Kwong
5th — Poppy Kwong
Japanese Prefectural Association Of Southern California
1st — Nanka Tochigi Kenjinkai
2nd — Hiroshima Kenjinkai
3rd — Nanka Miyagi Kenjinkai
4th — Ehime Kenjinkai
5th — Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai
1st — Teramachi
2nd — NALC USA
3rd — Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California
4th — Japanese American National Museum
5th — Little Tokyo Historical Society
Teramachi’s kazari was dedicated to the Issei pioneers. Nanka Tochigi Kenjinkai depicted legendary archer Nasu no Yoichi. Novo’s kazari featured Moana and Maui from Disney’s “Moana.” O’Farrell’s contribution was a model of Los Angeles City Hall. America Miyazaki Kenjinkai depicted Deku from the anime “My Hero Academia,” while Gedatsu Church chose the title character from Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” ANA’s theme was “Anyone can become a hero,” and its kazari included people from various professions, such as doctor, teacher and police officer.
“This colorful event is a tradition throughout Japan, which we are proud to have brought to share with the multicultural Los Angeles,” said festival chairperson Masumi Muya. “It is a festival that celebrates the meeting of two star lovers who are separated by the River Milky Way. Once a year, the two stars are allowed to meet, a day to have wishes granted. This is a romantic folklore story which is hundreds of years old.”
“How fitting that this festival takes place in the historic heart and home of the Southern California Japanese American community, which embodies the inspirational story of sacrifice, perseverance, and hopes and dreams realized,” Consul General Akira Chiba said in a statement.
The opening ceremony featured entertainment by Yuujou Daiko, Minyo Station, musician Scott Nagatani, and Nancy Teramura Hayata and her Japanese classical dance troupe, a kagami-wari ceremony and sake tasting.
The weekend festival included food, a beer garden, games, information booths, and music and dance performances.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo