Members Get Perks at Oshogatsu Family Festival


It’s almost time for the Oshogatsu Family Festival, one of JANM’s biggest and most anticipated events of the year! On Sunday, January 4, the museum will be alive with festive arts and crafts, food, cultural activities, and performances. The programs last all day, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and are free to all visitors. (Note: admission to Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, a specially ticketed exhibition, is not included.)

JANM members enjoy special perks at events like these. If you are a member, be sure to check in at the front desk and get your member sticker so you don’t miss out on the following:

12–2 p.m.: MEMBERS ONLY Osechi-Ryori Tasting
At this exclusive opportunity for JANM members, taste a selection of traditional Japanese new year foods—including various sweets and vegetables—and learn about the symbolism of each dish. Get in line early because the tasting will only last as long as supplies last!

12–5 p.m.: Double Raffle Tickets for Sheep Candy Sculptures
Shan Ichiyanagi will demonstrate the ancient, and now rarely practiced, Asian folk art of candy sculpting, as he makes candy in the shape of sheep. The finished pieces will be raffled off throughout the day. Members get double raffle tickets!

1–1:30 p.m.: Reserved Seating for Taikoza Performance
Taikoza, a group that uses traditional Japanese instruments to create an exciting contemporary sound, will present short performances on koto (zither) and shakuhachi (flute). Get to the Tateuchi Democracy Forum early to take advantage of specially reserved seats for members!

1–4 p.m.: Petting Zoo Members’ Express Line
Meet real live sheep and their goat friends at our Oshogatsu petting zoo, brought to you by Jessie’s Party Animals. Speed your kids through to the zoo by using the Members’ Express Line! (For children only. Line ends at 3:30 p.m.)

1–5 p.m.: Hello Kitty Members’ Express Line
Say “Hello!” and share a hug with Hello Kitty, the star of JANM’s exhibition Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. Put smiles on your kids’ faces—our Members’ Express Line will get them to Hello Kitty faster!

3 p.m.: Reserved Seating for UniverSoul Hip Hop Performance
Watch an energetic performance from UniverSoul Hip Hop, a community-based group dedicated to educating and enriching youth by bringing hip hop dance and culture to K–12 classrooms. Members enjoy reserved seating in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum!

These are just some highlights of what to expect at the 2015 Oshogatsu Family Festival. A complete schedule is available at To become a member or renew your membership, visit our membership page. See you in the new year!

2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival Highlights!


On Sunday, January 5th, JANM rang in the New Year and the Year of the Horse with fun arts ‘n crafts, food, exciting cultural activities, and performances!

Oshogatsu Family Festival is one of JANM’s biggest events of the year, and we were glad to see so many guests come to join in on the fun. From folding a prancing horse origami, to jumping around in a horse bounce house, all of the activities celebrated the New Year and the Year of the Horse.

Thank you to all the JANM staff, volunteers, and friends who helped out at Oshogatsu Family Festival, and of course, thank you to all the guests for helping JANM kick off the New Year with a fun and exciting day!

Check out these photos from the 2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival (click on the thumbnails to see the full pictures):


Photo Credits: Richard Murakami, Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, Richard Watanabe, and Tsuneo Takasugi

Check out more photos on our JANM Facebook page >>


Don’t miss our next Target Free Family Saturdays: Aloha from Hawaii with KoAloha Ukulele on Saturday, February 8th from 11AM to 4PM. It’s FREE all day! Visit for more information.

Perks of being a JANM member: 2014 Oshogatsu Edition

Kodama Taiko Mochitsuki 7

JANM’s annual Oshogatsu Family Festival tomorrow is free and open to the public, however, JANM would like to show our members how special they are to us. From a gourmet food tasting to Member Express Lanes, JANM members will receive special perks this Sunday at the festival.

2013's Onigiri Design Contest WinnerFrom 12pm to 2pm Common Grains is sponsoring an Onigiri Design Contest where guests can learn how to make onigiri rice balls and enter the design contest. For this event JANM members can enter a Member Express Lane, to skip a longer wait in line.

This year JANM will have free pony rides for children in celebration of the Year of the Horse from 1pm to 5pm, and members can get in a Member Express Lane.

_DSC0098In addition to member express lanes JANM members will receive special perks throughout the day. From 1pm to 2pm there will be a gourmet osechi-ryori tasting for members only, where JANM members can sample traditional Japanese New Year foods.

Candy Sculptures - AudienceFrom 12pm to 5pm world-renowned candy artist Shan Ichiyanagi will make his specialty horse candy sculptures where JANM members can double their chances in a raffle for a candy sculpture after completing an Oshogatsu event survey.

Kodama Taiko Mochitsuki 6There will also be Member Reserved Seating for the 2:30pm and 4pm Kodama Taiko demonstrations of mochitsuki, a traditional rice cake pounding ceremony where free samples of mochi will be given out.


The Oshogatsu Family Festival will take place on Sunday, January 5th at the Japanese American National Museum from 11am to 5pm. For a full itinerary and for more information, please visit

Support the Museum and enjoy many perks as a JANM member, join/renew now! There will be a Membership table at Oshogatsu Family Festival, or click here for details or to join online >> 

Candy Sculptures with Shan Ichiyanagi

Candy Sculpture by Shan Ichiyanagi - Horse

Candy Sculpting is an ancient Asian folk art that originated in China and has been known in Japan for over 1,000 years. As a dying art, only a few performers exist in the world today.

Utilizing old Japanese scissors, Shan Ichiyanagi, a world-renowned candy artist, can magically transform a block of molten corn syrup into a beautiful sculpture of almost any shape and size, in just 4-5 minutes!

Visit Oshogatsu Family Festival on Sunday, January 5th to watch Shan Ichiyanagi make his amazing candy sculptures from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Shan  Ichiyanagi making a candy sculpture at the Japanese American National Museum in January 2013

In celebration of the festival’s theme, “Year of the Horse”, Shan Ichiyanagi will make his special horse candy sculptures. The candies will be for children only and will be raffled off throughout the day.

The festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The day will be filled with fun arts & crafts, food, exciting cultural activities, and more! For more information, please visit:

Be sure to check our blog for more posts on specific activities scheduled for Oshogatsu Family Festival!

Read our interview with Shan Ichiyanagi on our Discover Nikkei website:

Shinobu Ichiyanagi – Master of Candy Crafts “Amezaiku” Artist who Captured American Heart with Traditional Japanese Performing Art
By Keiko Fukuda (English & Japanese)


Photo Credits: Shan Ichiyanagi and Daryl Kobayashi.

Osechi-ryori Tasting at JANM’s Oshogatsu Festival!

3 girls enjoying zaru soba at the 2013 Oshogatsu Family Festival
Young guests trying zaru soba at the 2013 Oshogatsu Family Festival

Celebrate the New Year with special New Year’s foods at the 2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival on Sunday, January 5th. It’s FREE all day from 11AM to 5PM!

Guests can learn how to make onigiri and submit their creative rice balls in an Onigiri Design ContestKidding around the Kitchen will provide the ingredients to make some lucky zaru soba (buckwheat noodles); and there will a mochitsuki demonstration by Kodama Taiko, where free samples will be handed out after each performance.

Not only is food a major component of JANM’s Oshogatsu Family Festival, but it is also a major component of traditional Japanese New Year celebrations. That’s why JANM has organized an Osechi-ryori tasting for the festival! Osechi-ryori are traditional Japanese New Year foods. The dishes that make up osechi each have a special meaning celebrating the New Year. Learn more about these dishes, and try them out for yourself at the festival!

There will be a general Osechi-ryori tasting from 12PM – 1PM, followed by a Members Gourmet Osechi-ryori tasting from 1PM – 2PM, which will be for JANM members only. Remember to get in line early because the tasting will only last as long as supplies last!

Stay tuned for more blog posts covering the special activities planned for Oshogatsu Family Festival!

Visit the Oshogatsu Family Festival page for the full schedule >>

Not a current member? Join/renew now >>

Onigiri Contest at JANM’s Oshogatsu Family Festival!

Onigiri Design Contest

On Sunday, January 5, 2014, JANM will once again be holding an Onigiri Design Contest at the annual Oshogatsu Family Festival!

2013's winning onigiriOnigiri are rice balls that are traditionally shaped into triangles and balls. However, onigiri can be pressed into many different shapes and decorated with all kinds of materials. Onigiri is made with plain rice and wrapped in nori (edible seaweed). Traditionally, the onigiri is filled with pickled salted plum fruit (umeboshi), salted salmon, bonito shavings, katsuobushi, or any other salty or sour ingredient.

From 12PM to 2PM learn how to make and decorate onigiri rice balls, and stick around until 3:30PM, when the Onigiri Design Contest winners will be announced.

2013's Onigiri Design Contest WinnerThe Onigiri Design contest will be sponsored by Common Grains, a project dedicated to providing people with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japanese food and culture. Common Grains aims to share the traditions and pleasures of eating grains and vegetables within a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. For more information, please visit their website,

Be sure to check our blog for more detailed posts of the activities planned for Oshogatsu Family Festival!

The Oshogatsu Family Festival will be from 11AM to 5PM and is free and open to the public. The day will be filled with fun arts & craftsfood, exciting cultural activities, and more! For the complete festival schedule, please visit

See more photos from last year’s Onigiri Design Contest >>

Photo Credits: Daryl Kobayashi, and Russell Kitagawa

Mochitsuki: A New Year’s Tradition

Crafts with FamilyOn Sunday, January 5th, celebrate the New Year and the Year of the Horse at our Oshogatsu Family Festival from 11AM to 5PM.

Ring in the New Year with a fun-filled day of arts ‘n crafts, food, exciting cultural activities, and performances! FREE ALL DAY!

One of the traditional Japanese customs that JANM will be celebrating is mochitsuki—the pounding of mochi or rice cakes, which is essential to the “Oshogatsu” or New Year’s celebration.

Kodama Taiko Mochitsuki 4Mochitsuki is an annual custom kept by many Japanese American households and communities. It is traditionally an all-day event which requires many hands, long hours, and physical labor, but is also a time of fellowship and socializing with friends and family.

Mochitsuki usually begins the day before, with the washing of the mochigome (sweet glutinous rice) and is left to soak overnight in large kettles or tubs. Early the next morning the mochigome is ready to be steamed in the seiro—wooden steaming frames. Three or four seiro are stacked one on top of the other and placed over a kettle of boiling water.

Kodama Taiko Mochitsuki 2After the rice is cooked, it is dumped into the usu, or mortar, made from a wood stump, stone or concrete form. The hot cooked rice in the usu is pounded with a kine or wooden mallet. With enthusiasm and force, the mochi is pounded until the mass of rice is smooth and shiny, with no discernible individual grains of rice. An essential participant in the pounding is the person assisting who quickly darts his or her hand into the usu and turns the rice before the next rhythmic pound.

Mochi Samples

The smooth, consistent mass of mochi is turned onto a cloth or paper covered table, already spread with a thin layer of mochiko (sweet rice flour). This makes the sticky mass easier to handle. An adept person pinches off small portions of the steaming hot mochi for others, who quickly form them into flattened bun shapes with their hands. The formed mochi is then set aside to cool and is ready to eat.

Kodama Taiko Mochitsuki 5


Be sure to visit JANM on Sunday, January 5th 2014 to watch Kodama Taiko perform their unique Mochitsuki performance at 2:30PM or 4PM. Watch as Kodama Taiko combine the age-old tradition of pounding mochi (sweet rice) with the sounds of taiko. This energetic performance is customary during the Japanese New Year’s Oshogatsu. Then stick around to sample the delicious mochi afterwards!


For more information on JANM’s 2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival and the complete schedule, please visit:

We hope to see you there!

* * * * *

Check out these stories about mochitsuki on our Discover Nikkei site:

Mochitsuki Tradition: Mochi Making the Old School Way (San Francisco, CA)
By Soji Kashiwagi

Mochitsuki: Taking the (rice) cake (Michigan)
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Mochitsuki (Toronto, ON, Canada)
By April Sora

PHOTOS: Celebrating Mochi-Tsuki Mochi Day in Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Chicago Japanese American Historial Society

VIDEO: Mochitsuki at Heart Mountain (Wyoming)
B&W home movie footage of mochitsuki taken at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming during WWII. From the Naokichi Hashizume Collection at JANM.

Photos by Daryl Kobayashi, Richard Murakami, Russell Kitagawa, Tsuneo Takasugi, and Caronline Jung.

Save the Date: 2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival

Taiko Group

Celebrate the New Year and the Year of the Horse at JANM! Ring in 2014 with a FREE fun-filled day of exciting cultural performances, special foods, and fun crafts!

Candy Sculpture

FREE admission all day on Sunday, January 5, 2014 from 11AM – 5PM.

Here are a few highlights to look forward to at Oshogatsu Family Festival:

From 12PM – 5PM, world-renowned candy artist Shan Ichiyanagi returns JANM! Watch as he makes horse & other special candy sculptures! These sculptures will be for children on, and candies will be raflled off throughout the day.

From 12PM – 2PM, learn how to make onigiri rice balls and participate in our Onigiri Design Contest, presented by Common Grains!

From 1PM – 5PM be sure to try some lucky zaru soba (buckwheat noodles) with Kidding Around the Kitchen. From 1PM – 5PM you can also meet and ride some real live ponies in celebration of the Year of the Horse!


Don’t miss Kodama Taiko at 2:30PM & 4PM as they perform a demonstration of mochitsuki, a traditional rice cake pounding ceremonyMochi samples will be passed out at the end of the performance!

For JANM members, there will be a special gourmet osechi-ryori tasting from 12PM – 1PM where members can sample traditional Japanese New Year foods, while supplies last!

The day will also include all-day activities such as a horse bounce house, a toddler room where our youngest guests can hang out, Fukubukuro (lucky bag) sale at the Museum Store, and fun horse crafts.

While you’re here, be sure to check out the Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 (through February 9, 2014) and Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts (through March 2, 2014) exhibitions.

For more details, visit the 2014 Oshogatsu Family Festival page:

Stay tuned for a special series of Oshogatsu blog posts that will explore some of the cultural activities in more detail!


Kaeru reindeerYou don’t have to wait to enjoy holiday fun at JANM!

Join us for Target FREE Family Saturdays: Winter Wonderland on Saturday, December 14 from 11AM – 4PM.

It’s a Winter Wonderland of seasonal crafts & activities including photos with Asian American Santa, a horse-drawn carriage, kamishibai story-telling, and more!

For schedule, visit:

2013 Oshogatsu Festival photos

Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate the New Year & the Year of the Snake!

Over 2,800 came throughout the day for our 2013 Oshogatsu Family Festival on Sunday, January 6th to enjoy free crafts, performances & food.

Thanks so much to our volunteer photographers who captured all the fun—Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, Daryl Kobayashi, Richard Murakami, and Tsuneo Takasugi.

Here’s a selection of the many, many photos they took to document the day!

(Click on the images to see the full photos)


For more Oshogatsu Family Festival photos, including from the Onigiri Design Contest, check out our photo album on our  JANM Facebook page >>

2013 Oshogatsu Family Festival

Celebrate the New Year & the Year of the Snake with JANM!

Join us on Sunday, January 6 from 11am – 5pm for a BIG day full of family-friendly fun activities, crafts, and cultural performances…and it’s all FREE!

We will have a lot of everyone’s favorite activities, plus Year of the Snake-themed crafts & more!

Here are a few highlights to look forward to:

– Mochitsuki performance & demonstration by Kodama Taiko

– Common Grains returns with the Onigiri Design Contest. Last year, this was so popular that we ran out of rice! This year, we’ll also have a rice tasting and you can purchase different varieties of rice. [Learn about how Common Grains got started in this article by founder Sonoko Sakai on our Discover Nikkei site: Common Grains]

– World-renowned candy artist Shaun Ichiyanagi also returns to make snake sculpture candy! (Everyone can watch, but the candy snakes are for children only & will be raffled off at the start of every hour)

– Learn how to play taiko with Bombu Taiko

– Reptacular Animals presents a Reptile petting zoo! Come meet real snakes and other cool reptiles!

– Special fukubukuro (lucky bag) sale at the Museum Store

Check for full schedule >>

Here are some photos from last year’s Oshogatsu Family Festival taken by volunteer Richard Watanabe:











While you’re here, take advantage of the free admission all-day to check out Giant Robot Biennale 3 before it closes on January 20!