NORWALK — Come join in celebrating the 55th annual Cultural Festival and Ondo (dance) on Saturday, July 28, from 3 to 9 p.m. and Sunday, July 29, from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Southeast Japanese School and Community Center (SEJSCC), 14615 Gridley Rd., (at Excelsior) in Norwalk.
The festival carries on the tradition of the Japanese who lived and farmed in the Norwalk/Downey area from the 1900s to the 1960s. Towards the end of summer they would gather together bringing their favorite foods for a festive celebration. Then in the coolness of the evening, they would form a dance circle and dance into the night, expressing the gratitude and joy of a successful summer harvest.
In 1963, SEJSCC officially began having the festival and included games for children. Since then, the festival has expanded to include martial arts demonstrations, Hawaiian music and dance, ikebana, taiko drumming, a white elephant sale, and bingo for the weekend.
On Saturday there will be a special children’s classical Japanese dance performance at 3:30 p.m. and a koto concert at 5 p.m.
For food lovers, there’s a wide array of tasty items, such as beef and chicken teriyaki, yakisoba, udon, sushi, orange chicken, barbecue pork chops, fried wonton, chili rice, Spam musubi, Okinawan dango, Imagawayaki and more. You won’t leave hungry.
In ancient Japan, the taiko drums were used to signal the village. At the festival, the taiko are also used to signal to guests that the ondo dancing will begin soon.
Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate in the dance circle. This is the highlight of the festival, uniting everyone in a common activity. These folk dances are easy. Just follow the dancers around you and have fun celebrating and experiencing a very traditional summer festival.
Additional parking with free shuttle is available at Lampton Elementary School, 14716 Elmcroft Ave. For more information, go to http://sejscc.org or call (562) 863-5996.