Held in conjunction with the Nisei Week Japanese Festival, the fourth annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival is set for Aug. 10-13 in Little Tokyo. Admission is free and the festival is located in front of the MOCA Geffen Contemporary Museum on First Street and Central Avenue, next to the Japanese American National Museum.

The Tanabata Festival is a fun and festive event with colorful kazari, food, arts and crafts vendors, and live entertainment. Sponsored by the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, the Nisei Week Foundation, and the Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai, the festival brings together diverse segments of the Japanese American community to celebrate a part of Japanese culture.

Southern California organizations, families, and individuals are encouraged to join in by creating their own Tanabata decorations.

The opening ceremonies will take place on Friday, Aug. 10, at 5 p.m. and the public is welcome to attend. The festival runs Saturday the 11th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday the 12th from 11a.m. to 5 p.m. The kazari display will be available for viewing all day the following Monday.

This year, the Tanabata Festival has expanded its activities to Japan and will send its community entry, the award-winning “Daruma” kazari, to be part of this year’s Sendai Tanabata Festival. The Daruma was selected as the L.A. Community kazari after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

“The 2011 festival paid tribute to the Japanese spirit. It is simply amazing how the people of Japan are dealing with the massive devastation and destruction caused by the tsunami and earthquake,” says Brian Kito, 2011 general chair of the Tanabata Festival. “The theme, ‘Uplifting our Spirits,’ is meant to serve as a message to us all to face adversity with perseverance and strength.”

ANA is sponsoring transportation of the Daruma kazari to Tokyo for the August festival.

In addition, Yoshihiko Murai, governor of Miyagi Prefecture, invited the Los Angeles Tanabata Festival to provide photos and stories for a photo exhibit to be on display at the Sendai Tanabata Festival, which opens on Aug. 6. The photos will feature highlights of the L.A. Tanabata Festival and the Japan relief efforts from the Los Angeles community, spearheaded by Kito. He will visit Miyagi at the invitation of Governor Murai and be recognized for the L.A. relief efforts.

Kito will also attend three major festivals of Japan: the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the Kanto Festival in Akita, and the Tanabata Festival in Miyagi.

Last year, 250 colorful kazari were proudly displayed in front of MOCA. The decorations were made by members of various organizations, including churches, kenjinkai, community centers, non-profit organizations, businesses, and youth groups. Senior residents at Keiro and Little Tokyo Towers made multiple kazari to display. As a cultural tradition was shared, friendships were renewed and strengthened.

For more information, visit the Little Tokyo Koban, 307 E. First St., or call (213) 613-1911. More information is also available at jhills.com.

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