The Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo held its annual Oshogatsu Family Festival on Jan. 6. To celebrate the Year of the Snake, kids made paper snakes of their own as well as decorative wreaths including all 12 of the Asian zodiac animals. Young artists Shizu, 8, and little brother Sean, 5, proudly display their snakes. (Upper right photo by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
Renowned candy artist Shan Ichiyanagi (left) made snake sculpture candy, fascinating children and adults alike.
Kidding Around the Kitchen gave hands-on workshops for making lucky zaru soba noodles.
Party Faces gave temporary face and arm tattoos using zodiac animal patterns.

In keeping with the snake theme, Reptacular Animals presented a petting zoo featuring snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and insects. Pictured are a red-tailed boa, a red tegu and a leopard gecko. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Kids learned Japanese drumming from Bombu Taiko and mochitsuki from Kodama Taiko.
Common Grains and JRE (Japanese Rice and Rice Products Export Association) offered premium rice-tasting and onigiri-making lessons led by food writer and cooking teacher Sonoko Sakai of Common Grains and Naoko Moore of Toiro Kitchen. Samples included vegetable chirashi sushi and rice with medley of mushrooms. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
Onigiri contest participants used a variety of ingredients, from greens to nuts.

Actress Suzy Nakamura holds up her winning entry, designed to look like a house. Also pictured is Mike Harrington’s prize-winning onigiri rooster. In addition to funny faces, winners included a car with carrot slices for wheels and a sumo wrestler with a loincloth made of nori.

Onigiri Contest Judges

Evan Kleiman, host of  KCRW-FM’s “Good Food”

Betty Hallock, Los Angeles Times food reporter

Naoko Moore, Toiro Kitchen cooking teacher

Josh Lurie, “Food GPS” blogger

Roxana Jullapat, Cooks County chef

Daniel Mattern, Cooks County chef

Onigiri Contest Winners


Kawaii: Kira Nguyen

Funny: Sophia

Cool: Tyler Amano Strazling


Humorous: Mark Harrington

Creative: Laurie Kitagawa

Delicious: Suzy Nakamura

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)

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