Splashing Sake: Community dignitaries join in the ceremonial breaking of the sake barrel to kick off the 2022 Oshogatsu festivities. Participants are JCCSC President Haruo Takehana, left, Union Bank Branch Manager Paul Abe, JACCC President and CEO Patricia Wyatt, LAPD Senior Lead Officer Jorge Zambrano, Consul General Akira Muto, and Mutual Trading Company Vice President Atsuko Kanai.

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. 

Youth Learning Shodo: Young visitor to the calligraphy booth tries his hand at hiragana.

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.

Tiger Kite Ready to Fly: Calligraphy artist Randy Yamamoto stands by his creation, a kite bearing the kanji character for “tiger.”

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.

Nisei Week Call Back: Oshogatsu emcee Grace Shiba, left, introduces 2021 Nisei Week court members: Miss Tomodachi Kiyomi Takemoto, Princess Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui, and Queen Jaime Hasama.

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.

Dance Troupe Enlivens Oshogatsu: Members of the Aozora Ren are among the entertainers on hand for New Year’s Day in Little Tokyo.

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