Kazari are a colorful feature of the Tanabata Festival. (© Sendai Tanabata Festival Support Association)

The 12th Los Angeles Tanabata Festival is set to open on Saturday, Aug. 13, and the giant 7-foot kazari (decorations) will remain on display through Aug. 22 at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

The display will be part of the Natsumatsuri Family Festival presented by JANM from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 13. Admission is free for the day and the public is invited to attend but reservations are requested.

A highlight of the festival are the spectacular, award-winning kazari shipped from Sendai, Japan. They will be available to view during the Nisei Week festivities outdoors on the JANM building.

The Tanabata Festival features handcrafted giant decorations to celebrate the traditional festival, which goes back to 16th-century Japan, at the start of the Edo Period. It is a celebration held on the seventh day of the seventh month and brings the legend of the Princess and the Cowherder to colorful life in the form of seven decorations:

Tanzaku (paper strips of handwritten wishes)

Orizuru (paper cranes to symbolize long and healthy lives)

Kinchaku (purses to symbolize wealth and good business)

Toami (nets made of paper to catch not only large hauls of fish but also good fortune)

Kamigoromo (paper kimono to display a wish for improved sewing and artistic skills)

Kuzukago (ornamental paper trash bags to celebrate cleanliness and frugality)

And perhaps most famously the fukinagashi (long streamers of paper hanging down from a frame to symbolize the art of weaving) that are usually hung underneath a circular ball or box frame.

The first Los Angeles Tanabata Festival was inaugurated in 2009 and sponsored by the Little Tokyo Koban (Public Safety), the Kenjinkai Kyogi Kai and the Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

This year Tanabata joins with JANM’s annual summer celebration. Natsumatsuri features cultural performances, crafts, and activities for families and kids of all ages. The festivities include dynamic drumming from Makoto Taiko, music from Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, author and librarian-led interactive storytimes, tanzaku bamboo wish tree, traditional Bon odori dance lessons, Obon festival-themed origami, craftsto celebrate the summer, a festival-themed photo booth, a scavenger huntfor prizes, exclusive benefits for JANM members, and free admission to see the exhibitions. 

Be Here / 1942: A New Lens on the Japanese American Incarceration” and “Sutra & Bible: Faith and the Japanese American World War II Incarceration” are currently on view at the museum.

Natsumatsuri is free but RSVPs are requested. The Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 N. Central Ave. (at First Street) in Little Tokyo.

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