Colorful kazari will be on view throughout the Tanabata Festival.

The eighth annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival is set for Friday through Sunday, Aug. 12-14, in Little Tokyo.

Opening ceremonies will be on Aug. 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. and will include the traditional sake barrel breaking ceremony with dignitaries and sponsors, as well as a performance by Minyo Station to announce the winners.

Tanabata is a traditional festival from Japan that celebrates the legend of two star-crossed lovers, Hikoboshi, the Ox Herder (the star is called Altair in English) and Orihime, the Weaver Princess (Vega). They spend most of the year separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way, but are reunited when their stars align in the summer constellations.

Progressive rock band Lolita Dark is among the musical offerings at the Tanabata Festival. (Photo by Stephanie Pick)

The Los Angeles Tanabata Festival is free and all are welcome to come see the performers, visit the booths, and participate by voting for the Kazari Contest People’s Choice Award. The festival will be held on Aug. 13 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Aug. 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., just before the Nisei Week Grand Parade begins.

The festival theme for this year is “Hope.”

“We all know that modern life includes news of social, political, and economic distress every day; however, we believe that as a community can care about each other to make it better,” stated Masumi Muya, festival chair. “Our festival, therefore, aims to unite the community and give everyone reasons to feel they belong since the very core of the Tanabata legend is that everyone hopes to find happiness together.”

She added, “We are pleased to welcome The Aratani Foundation as our major sponsor this year. We acknowledge our original presenters, Nisei Week Japanese Festival, the Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, and the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, for their continued support.”

The Tanabata Festival draws tens of thousands of attendees each year, and to encourage even more participation from the community, two new events have been added:

• The Photo Contest, organized by local photographer Nobuyuki Okada and judged by Allan Miyatake of Toyo Miyatake Studio, Mario Reyes of The Rafu Shimpo and Sadao Kimura.

• The Senryu Poetry Contest (senryu poems are written in the same 5-7-5 rhythm as haiku), for which Tomomi Kanemaru of Nikkan San’s Poemtown assisted as an advisor. Entries in Japanese will be judged by Sunny Seki and Toshio Handa, while entries in English will be judged by actress Tamlyn Tomita.

The Tanabata Festival features hundreds of amazing seven-foot kazari, Japanese decorations hand-made by members of the community. Participants also celebrate by writing wishes on small strips of paper (tanzaku) and hanging them from decorated bamboo branches.

Festival entertainment features traditional and modern performers, including taiko, classical Japanese and Hawaiian dance, jazz, rock and pop singers in Japanese and English. Confirmed artists include the popular Atomic Project (former members of the band Hiroshima), Local Mojo (old-school R&B and Motown), pop singer and model Stephanie Yanez, and the epic Japanese rock band Lolita Dark. Check the website for a full list of confirmed performers.

Traditional Japanese festival food booths, games, a beer garden and arts-and-crafts vendors will be active on both days as well.

For information, visit

Entertainment Schedule

Yoki Daiko, pictured at last year’s Tanabata Festival, will return this year. The group is based at the Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters of North America in Los Angeles. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Saturday, Aug. 13,  Main Stage

10:15 am: Yoki Daiko

11:00 am: Geta Tap Troupe

11:30 am: Megumi Date

12:00 pm: Kaoru Enjoji & Friends

1:00 pm: The 4 FOBS Band with Brian Yamamoto

2:00 pm: Senryu and Photo Contest Awards

3:00 pm: Local Mojo

4:00 pm: Cosplay Contest

5:00 pm: Kat

6:00 pm: Lolita Dark

7:00 pm: Erica Nakashima & Friends

8:00 pm: Shoujo Punch – Stephanie Yanez, Becca & Friends

The Atomic Project, featuring former members of Hiroshima, including “Atomic Nancy” Sekizawa and Jesse Acuña, performed at last year’s Tanabata Festival and will return this year. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Sunday, Aug. 14, Main Stage

10:15 am: Ken Koshio & Jakara

10:45 am: Megumi Date

11:00 am: Yuna and Tida

12:00 pm: Miyuki Geta Dance Art with Mas – Taiko Drums

12:30 pm: Michael Paulo

1:45 pm: The Atomic Project

3:00 pm: Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko

3:30 pm: Awa Odori Tokushima-Ren

4:00 pm: Raffle Prize Awards

Second Stage by JANM

11:00 am: Hikari Taiko

2:00 pm: Youjou Taiko

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