By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
After skipping the live activities last year, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation (JCCF) brought Oshogatsu back to Little Tokyo with the roar of a tiger, even if the tiger happened to be wearing a mask.
JCCF adapted to newly instituted city and county protocols, asking everyone to wear masks unless they were actively eating or drinking. The two-day event, which featured continuous entertainment utilizing outdoor venues at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) and Japanese Village Plaza, initiated several changes from previous celebrations. For one thing, the main event was moved from Weller Court to the larger JACCC Noguchi Plaza.
Among the popular booths, aside from those serving food and beverages, was the calligraphy (shodo) booth, where children and adults learned how to express their artistic side while learning to write Japanese characters. Shodo artist Randy Yamamoto demonstrated how to write the kanji character for tora (tiger) using a six-foot kite as his canvas.
Consul General Akira Muto opened the ceremonies by wishing everyone a “safe and healthy new year” and thanking the Japanese Chamber of Commerce staff, leaders, and volunteers for contributing to the resilience of U.S.-Japan relations.
Muto then took part in the kagami-biraki, breaking of the sake barrel, and was joined by Haruo Takehana, Japanese Chamber of Commerce president; Paul Abe, Union Bank director and branch manager; Patricia Wyatt, JACCC president and CEO; Jorge Zambrano, LAPD senior lead officer; and Atsuko Kanai, vice president of Mutual Trading Company, Inc.
“The weather was really cooperating on both days, and the turnout was more than expected during this pandemic time. I feel it was a great success,” noted Takehana.
Chamber officer Grace Shiba guided the program on the JACCC stage, welcoming 2021 Nisei Week Queen Jaime Hasama, Miss Tomodachi Kiyomi Takemoto, and Princess Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui.
Taiko Center of Los Angeles led off the performances, which included aikido, minyo, shishimai (lion dancers), and odori groups.
Estimated attendance was 5,000 to 6,000 on Dec. 31, 12,000 on Jan. 1. Visitors hailed from throughout Southern California and across the U.S., many choosing to head to Little Tokyo following the Pasadena Rose Parade.
It was an auspicious start to 2022.