What to Expect at Natsumatsuri 2018

JANM is counting down the days to our Natsumatsuri Family Festival! Join us in celebrating the summer season on Saturday, August 18, for a full day of fun: crafts, bubble making, taiko performances, bon odori dances, tea ceremonies, live music, and so much more. Best of all, admission to this annual celebration and the museum will be free all day.

As in years past, we are excited to bring the Okinawan dango booth back to JANM. Always a crowd favorite, Okinawan dango (also known as saataa andaagii, which translates to “deep fried sugar”) are small Japanese donuts fried to crispy perfection on the outside with a deliciously fluffy inside. Popular at summer obon festivals in the West, these traditional treats will only be available while supplies last, so come early!

After you’ve enjoyed some snacks, we have two taiko performances for your entertainment. A cornerstone of Japanese American summer festivals, the taiko drum is a crowd-pleasing loud Japanese instrument. Use of this instrument during festivals dates back as far as the sixth century. Today, taiko refers to a broad range of instruments and ensembles in a practice that transcends cultural, stylistic, and geographical boundaries.

Two talented taiko groups will get hearts racing. San Fernando Valley Taiko takes the stage at 11:15 a.m. in Aratani Central Hall for a performance and interactive taiko demonstration. Founded by two collegiate taiko experts, San Fernando Valley Taiko offers weekly classes for every skill level at the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center. If you miss that first taiko display, have no fear. At 4:15 p.m., on our Children’s Courtyard, Los Angeles’ very own TAIKOPROJECT will close the day’s festivities. A modern American taiko group, they put on powerful shows that combine traditional forms with innovative aesthetics. The group has appeared at the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards, among others.

Taiko drummers perform at Natsumatsuri 2016. (Photo credit: Steve Fujimoto)

Between the taiko performances, Masayo Young will lead three traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, at 12:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Born and raised in Osaka, Young has practiced these ancient rituals for decades. The quiet performances require a focused and meditative sense of control that place value in the process of mindfully preparing and serving matcha tea. The number of participants for each ceremony will be limited, so sign up early to make sure you get a serving of tea with traditional sweets. Sign-up sheets will be available at the museum survey table.

 

At 2:45 p.m., say aloha to Kaulana Ka Hale Kula O Na Pua O Ka Aina in Aratani Central Hall. Since 1999, the group has preserved and shared Native Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures. With learning at the center of their practice, they teach many of their haumana (students) how to make their own implements, attire, and leis. Families are invited to hula alongside them during their set, so come ready to dance.

A group of dancers from Kaulana Ka Hale Kula O Na Pua O Ka Aina perform.

Natsumatsuri Family Festival 2018 will be fun for all ages, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Free for everyone, JANM invites families to enjoy the entire day, with even more activities including origami workshops, jazz performances, and a scavenger hunt. JANM members get perks throughout the day, including reserved seating and express lines, so join or renew today! More information about all of our Natsumatsuri activities is available on our website.

The Thrill of Taiko

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Taiko drumming is energetic, rhythmic, and exciting—the thundering of a taiko drum will catch someone’s attention regardless of how near or far they are.

The word “taiko” literally means “fat drum” in Japanese. Historically, taiko drums have been used in Japan for religious ceremonies and local festivals. In feudal times, a one-drum act was typical, but in the 1950s, kumi-daiko—an ensemble made up of different types of taiko drums—was introduced. This is the style that remains popular today.

In a taiko ensemble, the biggest drum is called an o-daiko, the mid-sized drum is a chu-daiko, and the smallest is called a shime-daikoKumi-daiko can accommodate a variety of musical styles, including jazz and pop.

Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM's 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Tsuneo Takasugi.
Los Angeles Matsuri Taiko perform at JANM’s 2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival. Photo: Tsuneo Takasugi.

 

When Japanese immigrants introduced taiko to the United States in the early 20th century, its practice was a way to secure their cultural identity and also to have a collective voice as an ethnic group. Today, taiko drumming can be seen in many different contexts, whether they are traditional Japanese festivals like obon (honoring the dead) or musical revues. Just this past weekend, JANM was proud to host and co-present the 2014 World Taiko Gathering, which united players from around the world for workshops, concerts, and jam sessions.

In just a few weeks, taiko will return to JANM when East LA Taiko presents a free performance during our all-day Natsumatsuri Festival on August 9, 2014. A Los Angeles–based group founded in 1991 by Maceo Hernandez, East LA Taiko is a great example of kumi-daiko’s adaptability. The group incorporates Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms and ska-punk flavors alongside traditional Japanese beats, fusing them into a uniquely LA sound. Hernandez, who has trained in Japan, is a veteran taiko drummer who has performed worldwide. In recent years the group has partnered with singer-songwriter Lysa Flores, who brings her own Latin flare to their performances.

Taiko drums are versatile and thrilling instruments. To experience taiko is to experience more than just drumbeats—it’s to hear the hearts, minds and souls of the players.

This post was written by Dina Furumoto, one of JANM’s interns through the 2014 Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program. Dina is a student at Cal Poly Pomona, where she is majoring in Sociology.

5th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique Highlights

Shoppers at the Kokoro Craft Boutique are busy hopping from one booth to another.
Shoppers at the Kokoro Craft Boutique are busy hopping from one booth to another.

 

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, the Friends of the Museum hosted the Kokoro Craft Boutique at JANM. The boutique showcased and sold a wide variety of unique, artisan-quality items.

Shoppers
Shoppers enjoy the wide variety of crafts at the 2013 Kokoro Craft Boutique.

The 2013 Kokoro Craft Boutique was a huge success. Over 1,300 shoppers visited the boutique! There were 50 Vendors with beautiful, creative, and unique crafts, including Giant Robot merchandise, cultural T-shirts, 3-D & bronze art, vendor-designed jewelry, handbags, tote bags, clothing, scarves, pottery, original artwork, and more!

All shoppers appreciated the perks as they shopped. By spending $10 or more at the Boutique, shoppers received free admission to the Museum’s exhibitions for that day, and a 10% discount during the month of October at participating Little Tokyo restaurants!

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Yuujou Taiko gave a powerful performance on the Plaza.

Yuujou Taiko’s performance on the Plaza drew a very large crowd. Their talent and enthusiasm captivated an audience who didn’t seem to mind standing in 93-degree weather!

Thank you to all who came to shop and support the Museum. The Friends of the Museum will be able to donate a generous amount to the Museum’s Educational programs.

Watch JANM’s Events Calendar next year for the date of the 2014 Kokoro Craft Boutique!

Check out these photos from the 5th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique:

Photos by Tsuneo Takasugi, Richard Murakami, and Russell Kitagawa.

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Don’t miss exciting events like this at JANM! Stay updated on all our events by visiting janm.org/events or “liking” our JANM Facebook page!

Kokoro Craft Boutique coming to JANM!

Kokoro Craft Boutique 2013

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, the Friends of the Museum will host the Kokoro Craft Boutique at JANM from 10AM to 4PM. Proceeds will benefit JANM’s educational programs. Don’t miss this free showcase and sale of unique, artisan-quality items!

There will be 50 vendors in the craft boutique—including 3-D art, jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, woven & silk scarves, origami, handbags, cultural t-shirts, pottery, ceramics, bronze art, and more! This boutique will also feature crafts from Asian American pop culture juggernaut, Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot.

The Kokoro Craft Boutique will not only showcase and sell a wide variety of unique items, but there will also be taiko drumming by Yuujou Taiko at 1pm, and the Lomo Arigato Peruvian-Japanese Fusion Gourmet Truck will be selling their delicious food on the plaza.

A purchase of $10 or more at the boutique will provide you with free admission to the Museum’s exhibitions, and also with a 10% discount at participating Little Tokyo restaurants.

Check out these photos from last year’s Kokoro Craft Boutique held at JANM!

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Photos by Russel Kitagawa, Richard Murakami, and Richard Watanabe.

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For more information on the Kokoro Craft Boutique, email kokorocraft@gmail.com. For Museum hours, admission rates, and information, visit janm.org.

The Japanese American National Museum is located on the corner of 1st & Central. Public parking or transportation via the Metro Gold Line to “Little Tokyo/ Arts District” are available.

Highlights from Natsumatsuri

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One of our special visitors...she's been coming to JANM events for over seven years!
One of our special visitors. She’s been coming to JANM events for over seven years!

Wow! We had such an incredible time at this year’s Natsumatsuri Family Festival on August 10, 2013. Nearly 4,000 guests came to enjoy a day full of cultural performances, demonstrations, activities, and crafts. A big thank you to everyone who made it out (and extra kudos to those who came from as far away as Bakersfield and Frazier Park—that’s a whole lot of driving!).

Take a look through this event recap and see if you can spot yourself!

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Screenprinting kaeru origami and taiko totes!

This year, we added a few new perks to thank our Members and Courtyard Kids. Museum members were able to use special “fast pass” lines for some of our most popular activities, including the yukata dress-up and the screenprinted tote bags. Members also got prime seats at our Aratani Central Hall performances and demonstrations. To all of our members who came out for Natsumatsuri, thanks again for your support!

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Japanese mariachi Roger del Norte, performs for the crowd.

Speaking of Central Hall events, we had a day jam-packed with great performances! Roger del Norte and Lupita Infante stole the show with a Japanese-Spanish mariachi duet, accompanied by the band MEXICAPAN. It was standing room only for Roger and Lupita, and the crowds didn’t let up for the L.A. Matsuri Taiko performance that finished up the day.

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JANM President/CEO G.W. Kimura with the visiting courts.

Long before that, we kicked the day off with a visit from the Nikkei courts of San Francisco, Honolulu, and Seattle. The queens and princesses came by for a meet n’ greet with JANM President/CEO G.W. Kimura, followed by a tour of our Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition from our knowledgeable docents.

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A visitor and his mom work on their wacky paper hat.

As you probably noticed, this year’s Natsumatsuri was all about celebrating summer with some old and new traditions! From learning to play taiko drums with volunteer Hal Keimi to listening to Rev. Bill Briones of Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple explain the history of Obon in both Japan and the United States, we went back to the roots of traditional Japanese festivals. (The wacky paper hats craft is a much-loved tradition of our own!)

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What’s your fortune? One visitor is about to find out!

We’re big believers in interactive activities fun at JANM. This year, we invited visitors to make self-portraits and fans upstairs, while we once again hosted the “What Are You?” photo activity and omikuji fortunetelling downstairs. Traditional Obon dancing lessons and airbrush tattoos were also big hits.

What was your favorite part of the day? See below for more photos!

Thanks to our wonderful volunteer photographers for documenting the day: Russell Kitagawa, Nobuyuki Okada, Richard Watanabe, Tsuneo Takasugi, Shoji Tokumasa, Richard Murakami, June Aoki, Caroline Jung, and Daryl Kobayashi.

Natsumatsuri: Taiko

While the Museum prepares for Natsumatsuri on Saturday, August 10th, we thought we’d get everyone pumped by putting a spotlight on some of the upcoming activities! Look forward to more of these posts explaining several Natsumatsuri traditions.

Hal Keimi is a long-time JANM volunteer who leads interactive taiko demonstrations for school tours throughout the year. He led 2 taiko sessions at Oshogatsu Family Festival
Hal Keimi is a long-time JANM volunteer who leads interactive taiko demonstrations for school tours and family festival events throughout the year

Anyone who’s been a regular visitor to Little Tokyo has likely seen—or heard—a taiko group perform. If you haven’t, there will be several chances to at this year’s Natsumatsuri! Museum docent Hal Keimi will be teaching taiko, followed by a performance to cap off the day by the L.A. Matsuri Taiko group.

Taiko, or Japanese drums, have grown into a variety of percussion instruments. Taiko can also refer to the art of Japanese ensemble drumming with many different instruments and performers—specifically known as kumi-daiko. Performances can last from five to 25 minutes.

Taiko in America really began in the 1960s, when the first kumi-daiko group was formed in San Francisco. That first group soon lead to two more, one in San Jose and the other right here in Los Angeles. These three original groups built their own drums, created their own costumes, and wrote their own music.

The ranks swelled and diversified to over 250 groups in North America today, who perform not just at festivals but also in colleges, auditoriums, and movie soundtracks.

Check out this video of LA Matsuri Taiko performing at the Valley Japanese Community Center Obon Festival!

 

(Video: odorigirl)

2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival
FREE ALL DAY!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
11AM – 5PM

11:30AM & 12:30PM: Taiko Demonstrations
Taiko is a Japanese American tradition! Learn how to play taiko drums with JANM docent Hal Keimi

4:30PM: Taiko Performance
Enjoy a fun taiko performance by L.A. Matsuri Taiko!

For full schedule of activities: janm.org/natsumatsuri2013

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The Watase Media Arts Center produced a DVD about taiko in the United States in conjunction with the 2005 Big Drum exhibition. Purchase it from the Museum Store >>

Natsumatsuri: Bon Odori

While the Museum prepares for Natsumatsuri on Saturday, August 10th, we thought we’d get everyone pumped by putting a spotlight on some of the upcoming activities! Look forward to more of these posts explaining Natsumatsuri traditions.

Ondo dancing at the 2007 Orange County Buddhist Church Obon.
(Photo: Vicky Murakami-Tsuda)

 

This August, come get your groove on at JANM! The Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will be teaching bon odori, or traditional Japanese folk dances often performed at obon festivals in the summer.

During a bon odori, dancers line up and perform to traditional folk songs along with the beat of a taiko. The dancers, nowadays often multi-generational and multiethnic, circle the drummer, who is perched on a raised wooden scaffold. The songs vary from festival to festival, with different regional favorites (such as Tokyo ondo or tanko bushi, the coal miner’s dance). Some odori use props like kachi kachi (small wooden clappers) or different types of fans.

Although the style dates back all the way to the late Heian (794-1185) period, the first bon odori in Los Angeles was in 1933 or ‘34 at the nearby Hompa Hongwanji temple. Today, you can find bon odori at obons all across California, from Los Angeles to San Jose.

See for yourself what a bon odori looks like in this video of a Nishi Hongwanji obon!

 

(Video: Ralph Moratz)

2013 Natsumatsuri Family Festival
FREE ALL DAY!
Saturday, August 10, 2013
11AM – 5PM

1PM: Obon History & Traditions
What is Obon all about? Rev. Bill Briones of Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will discuss the history and traditions of Obon in Japan and the United States

2:30PM: Obon Dance Demonstration
Get ready to dance! Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will show you how to dance traditional Obon dances

For full schedule of activities: janm.org/natsumatsuri2013

Fun for the whole family at Natsumatsuri!

JANM-2013-NatsumatsuriWe are cutting the origami paper, ordering the bounce house, and lining up the entertainment…and you know what that means! JANM is gearing up for our annual Natsumatsuri family festival! On Saturday, August 10th, from 11 AM to 5PM, join us to celebrate summer with crafts, cultural performances, and activities—all for free.

This year, we’re going retro with lots of traditional summer festival activities. Get your blood pumping with a taiko lesson from JANM docent Hal Kiemi before learning what obon is all about. As always, there will be tons of fun activities and crafts all day, from screenprinting tote bags to making wacky paper hats.

It’s not all old school—we’re making new traditions this year too! Japanese mariachi singer Roger del Norte will perform with MEXICAPAN and singer Lupita Infante for the first ever mariachi concert at JANM.

Also, if you haven’t already, walk through our exhibits Visible & Invisible (closing on August 25th) and Portraiture Now!

Check out the schedule for the full list of awesome activities.

See you soon!

Target Free Family Saturday is right around the corner!

This is Evan.

Look!  Evan has a new wooden harmonica and cardboard guitar!

Evan makes noise.  Um, I mean, Evan makes music.

Don’t you want to be noisy… um, I mean, musical just like Evan?

Good news!  You can!  Come on down to the Museum this Saturday for our March Target Free Family Saturday. (March 9th).  We’re ready to celebrate music with fun performances and lots of opportunities to make some noise!  On the crafty side of things we’ll be making harmonicas and stringed instruments just like Evan’s.

There will be a drum circle for you to join and performances by the Turath Ensemble, who will perform traditional Middle Eastern music and drumming.  A family day favorite, TAIKOPROJECT will perform as well.  We’re all set for a JANM jam so come join us.

On top of all this musical excitement, we are also so excited to welcome our friend Sonya from the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in Dearborn, Michigan.  One of our current exhibitions, Patriots and Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to our Country comes to us from AANM.  Sonya will be leading tours of the exhibition throughout the day with a special talk at 1:30.

Hope to see you!

Special thanks to Evan for such a dynamic demonstration of what fun we will have on Saturday.  He deserves an award for being a good sport.

Discover Nikkei -Taiko Groups

Discover Nikkei Taiko Database returns!

In 2005, we opened the Big Drum: Taiko in the United States exhibition. It was the first exhibition since my joining the Web unit at JANM where we really developed a lot of cool resources online in conjunction with an exhibit. I had the opportunity to work with curator Sojin Kim, our web technologist Geoff Jost, and volunteer writers to develop & upload a lot of great historic and contemporary photosactivities, and articles on the exhibition site.

I also worked with Discover Nikkei coordinator Yoko Nishimura and staff at our Watase Media Arts Center to add many wonderful video interview clips on our Discover Nikkei website.

The other major component we developed was a database of taiko groups in the U.S., but also included some other groups outside of Japan. We set up the database using some basic info collected for the exhibition. Then, we contacted all of the groups and invited them to log in and update/add to their group info, and upload some photos & audio clips.

Although most never logged in, there were quite a few groups that did participate. The most notable was San Jose Taiko who added extensive information about their group’s history. Others included Portland Taiko, Fubuki Taiko, Somei Yoshino Taiko, and University of Tasmania Taiko Society.

It was always so interesting to look at what groups had added information because it showed the growth and popularity of taiko. There were groups all over the U.S. (even in places where there aren’t many Japanese Americans), and many in Canada, and even in Europe (there are 4 groups listed in Belgium)!

After the initial activity during the exhibition run, not many of the groups updated their info. When the redesigned Discover Nikkei site went live in July 2009, we launched it without the Taiko Database, always intending to add it back in once we had some time to work on it.

It’s been 2 years, but I’m really excited that we recently launched our new & improved Taiko Groups section! It has the old database info, photos, and audio clips, but presented in a new layout with easier accessibility, and incorporates events posted by the groups onto their taiko group pages.

San Jose Taiko has already started updating their info and we hope that other groups will join them soon.

Check out the new & improved Taiko Groups >>

P.S. If you are with or know of any taiko groups, please encourage them to update their pages! It’s a great & free way to share your group’s contact info, general info, history, photos, audio clips, videos, and upcoming events!

If you need help with your group’s login info, or if your group is not already listed and you’d like to be added, contact editor@discovernikkei.org.

Discover Nikkei -Taiko Groups