Little Tokyo welcomes the return of Oshogatsu


Sake Splash: Community dignitaries join the sake barrel breaking ceremony to kick off the Oshogatsu festivities in 2022. Participants are JCCSC President Haruo Takehana, left, branch manager from Union Bank Paul Abe, JACCC CEO Patricia Wyatt, LAPD Senior Manager Jorge Zambrano, Consul General Akira Muto and Mutual Trading Company Vice President Atsuko Kanai.

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

After ignoring the live activities last year, the Japan Chamber of Commerce Foundation (JCCF) brought Oshogatsu back to Little Tokyo with the roar of a tiger, even though the tiger was wearing a mask.

Youth Learning Shodo: A young visitor to the calligraphy stand tries his hand at hiragana.

The JCCF has adapted to the newly instituted city and county protocols, requiring everyone to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. The two-day event, which featured on-going entertainment using venues outside the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and Japanese Village Plaza, initiated several changes from previous celebrations. On the one hand, the main event has been moved from Weller Court to the larger JACCC Noguchi Plaza.

Among the popular stalls, aside from those serving food and drink, was calligraphy (shodo) booth, where children and adults alike learned to express their artistic side while learning to write Japanese characters. Shodo artist Randy Yamamoto demonstrated how to write the kanji character for torus (tiger) using a six foot kite as a canvas.

Consul General Akira Muto opened the ceremonies by wishing everyone a “safe and healthy New Year” and thanking the staff, leaders and volunteers of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for their contribution to the resilience of the US-Japan relationship.

Tiger Kite Ready to Fly: Calligraphy artist Randy Yamamoto sticks to his creation, a kite carrying the kanji character for “tiger”.

Muto then participated in the kagami-biraki, smashing the sake barrel, and was joined by Haruo Takehana, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce; Paul Abe, Director of Union Bank and Branch Manager; Patricia Wyatt, President and CEO of JACCC; Jorge Zambrano, Senior Senior LAPD Officer; and Atsuko Kanai, vice president of Mutual Trading Company, Inc.

“The weather really cooperated both days and the turnout was higher than expected during this pandemic time. I think it was a great success, ”noted Takehana.

House Officer Grace Shiba guided the program to the JACCC stage, welcoming Nisei 2021 Queen of the Week Jaime Hasama, Miss Tomodachi Kiyomi Takemoto and Princess Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui.

Nisei Week Recall: Oshogatsu host Grace Shiba, left, introduces Nisei Week 2021 Tribunal members: Miss Tomodachi Kiyomi Takemoto, Princess Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui and Queen Jaime Hasama.

The Taiko Center in Los Angeles led the performances, which included aikido, minyo, shishimai (lion dancers) and odori groups.

The estimated attendance was 5,000 to 6,000 on December 31 and 12,000 on January 1. Visitors came from all over Southern California and the United States, with many choosing to head to Little Tokyo after the Pasadena Rose Parade.

It was a promising start to 2022.

The dance troupe animates Oshogatsu: the members of the Aozora Ren are among the artists present for New Years Day in Little Tokyo.


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