The Kawachi Ondo group was a hit on the stage at Japanese Village Plaza.

And now we welcome

the new year.

Full of things

that have never been.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Fears that rainy weather might discourage visitors to the annual Oshogatsu Festival were dispelled on Sunday as soon as the first bachi stick hit the taiko drum, and the sun beamed in Little Tokyo.

Members of the minyo song group Matsutoyo Kai performed folk songs from Japan.
A young participant tries her hand at the traditional method of making mochi – pounding sweet rice with a wooden mallet.

An estimated 10,000 visitors packed Weller Court and Japanese Village Plaza, where they sampled food, experienced Japanese culture and entertainment, visited Buddhist temples, and ushered in the Year of the Rabbit.

Consul General Kenko Sone commended the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation for helping to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship “cultivated over many years by Japanese-affiliated companies as well as the Japanese and Japanese American communities.”

JCCSC President Haru Takehana thanked the sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and performers for their work in making Oshogatsu possible. Ryu Kato and Jeff Yamazaki served as event co-chairs.

Demonstrating proper technique with Toshinkan Aikido, 14-year-old Neo Takeda shows one method to subdue an attacker, played by Sensei Toru Hashinokuchi.

JVP, Mutual Trading, and Union Bank sponsored the celebration, which was supported by Weller Court Shopping Center.

New Year’s Day services were held at four of Little Tokyo’s six Buddhist temples.

New Year’s reveling will continue on Sunday, Jan. 8, when the Japanese American National Museum presents its 2023 Oshogatsu Family Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free program features traditional mochitsuki (Japanese rice pounding), Kodama Taiko, candy sculpture by Shan Ichiyanagi, koto performance, interactive storytimes, scavenger hunt, and souvenir photos.

RSVP is requested. Visit

The Nisei Week Queen and Princesses toss mochi to the crowd gathered to celebrate at Weller Court.
A young boy isn’t quite convinced that coming face-to-face with the oni will bring good luck in the new year.
Dignitaries perform the kagami-biraki ceremony, in which barrels of sake are broken open.
Left: Kakizome or first calligraphy of the new year. Right: Young crafters construct New Year’s kites at one of the activity booths at Weller Court.
Oshogatsu rites at Koyasan Buddhist Temple included the traditional tying of omikuji (fortune scrolls).
Above: Rev. Yuju Matsumoto greets visitors at Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Below: Hatsu-goma or New Year’s fire ritual.

Photos by TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo

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