We greeted over 6,000 visitors to JANM on January 8, 2023 as we welcomed in the Year of the Rabbit with oodles of family-friendly activities. Families of all ages enjoyed the New Year festivities including hand-sculpted candy-making demonstrations to craft activities and mochi (rice cake) pounding performances.
The occasion brought together those with Japanese ancestry keen to pass on cultural traditions to their young ones and others who came to share a memorable experience.
This is the first hybrid JANM Oshogatsu Family Festival since the pandemic. The all-day festival featured a range of events such as the improv comedy performance by Cold Tofu, the nation’s longest running AsianAmerican improv group, and the dynamic, large-scale calligraphy performance by Kunihara Yoshida.
Enjoy some highlights from the 2023 Oshogatsu Family Festival!
Watch the highlights from the 2023 Oshogatsu Family Festival! (available for a limited time only)
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.
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.
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.
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-daiko. Kumi-daiko can accommodate a variety of musical styles, including jazz and pop.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Photos by Russel Kitagawa, Richard Murakami, and Richard Watanabe.
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For more information on the Kokoro Craft Boutique, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
We 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.
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 ourCountrycomes 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.