On August 12, 2023, JANM welcomed 2,715 visitors to its annual summer celebration featuring free cultural performances, crafts, and activities in downtown Los Angeles.
Our Natsumatsuri Family Festival kicked off with a powerful performance by the award-winning TAIKOPROJECT. Their song, “Omiyage,” conveyed the custom of the same name where a person gives gifts to friends, colleagues, or family when visiting a place. TAIKOPROJECT’s closing performance was all about audience participation with call and response of ichi ni sou rei and oroshi, a series of hits to the drum that slowly speeds up in tempo. Kids and adults alike joined together to play the drums in two different rounds, raising their bachi (drum sticks) to the sky before bringing them down for the first hit and yelling the call (ichi ni) and response (sou rei).
Elaine Fukumoto from the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple led a group bon odori (traditional dance) in JANM’s Aratani Central Hall. “We’re dancing fools and we want more dancing fools to join us,” said Fukamoto, encouraging visitors participating in origami and the scavenger hunt to join the dance circle as she led a group lesson with songs like “Sakura” and “Pokemon Ondo.”
Outside on the courtyard, the comedy and improv group Cold Tofu performed skits based on the audience’s suggestions. They played games like English Gibberish where audience members gave two cast members the theme archenemies and they improvised a conversation while switching from English to babble all while staying in character. They also played Pop-Up Storybook where audience members gave all cast members an adjective (smoky) and a noun (sewing machine) to narrate a unique four-part story called “the smoky sewing machine.”
The festivities continued throughout the afternoon with a kendo demonstration by Sho Tokyo Kendo Dojo, a printmaking workshop with artist David Horvitz in collaboration with Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair, and a taiko workshop led by longtime JANM Volunteer Hal Keimi.
Closing out our family festival was a fabulous shamisen jazz and blues performance by Yu Ooka and Kimo Cornwell of the Yu-ki Project. Ooka is a Los Angeles–based shamisen player and guitarist, and Cornwell is a Grammy-nominated keyboardist. They performed original songs such as “Train Home to Osaka,” Working Man,” and “Where the Tree Grows.” They were then joined by Karen Evans, an amazing singer from Inglewood, California who toured the world with Ray Charles. Together, they played James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love,” ZZ Hill’s “Down Home Blues,” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” to a grooving audience.
We hope to see you next year for our Oshogatsu Family Festival in January 2024! Check our Events Calendar later this year for more about our next free family festival.