Bon dance practice at OAA Center in Gardena.

Umanchu majun OAA Picnic uti ashibibusan! (We want to have fun with everyone at the OAA Picnic!)

The Okinawa Association of America (OAA) will host their Annual Members Picnic on Sunday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Whittier Narrows Recreation Park, Group Picnic Area E-1, South El Monte.

Featuring live entertainment, games and races, raffle drawings, high school scholarship awards, and Okinawan-style Bon dancing, it’s the perfect event for reunions or a summer outing with loved ones. (Non-members are also encouraged to attend the event and apply for membership.)

For many OAA members, the picnic is rooted in their family’s history. The gatherings were pioneered by early Okinawan immigrants in the 1930s as a way to build fellowship and to joyously partake in their shared cultural heritage. The organizers later added a high school scholarship award to recognize the academic and service achievements of young Okinawans in the organization. The event has since become a multigenerational gathering centered around great company and the rich cultural heritage that unites the community.

The OAA encourages bringing the whole family to enjoy games throughout the day, including a water balloon toss tournament, relay races, and tama-ire (a popular beanbag toss game in Japan); prizes awarded to all participants (while supplies last). The picnic will conclude with the much-anticipated chinahichi (tug-of-war); age restrictions apply.

Picnic-goers can also enjoy and cheer on local talent during the entertainment program. From traditional dances and folk music to the dynamic Ryūkyūkoku Matsuri Daiko drum-dancing group, this is one of the few annual events in Southern California that spotlights the diverse culture of the Ryūkyū Islands.

The picnic’s festivities will culminate with Bon Odori, a community dance circle that is performed in honor of our uyafaafuji (ancestors). All audience members are invited to join; no experience is necessary as the movements are repetitive and easy to follow. The OAA’s “Okinawa-style” Bon Odori is unique in that all of the dances are Okinawan and live music will be provided by sanshin (traditional three-stringed lute) and paarankuu (hand drum) musicians.

To learn the choreographies ahead of time, practice videos are available at

There will be raffle drawings throughout the day with great prizes. One grand prize winner will take home a 43” Toshiba LED 4K Smart TV, generously donated by Kamiya Insurance Agency, and a top prize winner will receive $300. Other prizes include L.A. Dodgers tickets, a children’s bicycle, gift cards, and more. Proceeds will benefit the OAA’s yearly activities as well as much-needed maintenance and repairs for the organization’s facilities.

Food will not be sold or provided at the event; everyone is asked to bring their own food. No alcohol, smoking, or pets permitted (except for service animals). Gates open at 10:30 a.m; on-site parking is $7 per car (carpooling recommended); golf cart service from the lot to the event site is available for members with physical restrictions.

Raffle tickets ($1) are available for pre-order:, (310) 532-1929. Volunteers are needed on July 15 and 16; please contact the OAA or sign up at (service hours available for students).

The OAA would like to say ippee nifee deebiru (thank you very much) to this year’s Silver Level Sponsor, Uyehara Travel, for their generous support and the following businesses for donating raffle items: Albertsons, Chafinity, The Children’s Museum at La Habra, Cross Roads Escape Games, Golf N’ Stuff, Hollywood Sports Park/SC Village, La Mirada Theatre, Live Long and Plant, Newport Landing, Tanaka Farms, Trader Joe’s.

The OAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture. Formed by first generation Okinawan immigrants (Issei), the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year, including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities. 2019 marked the organization’s 110th anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena. Facebook/Instagram @oaamensore

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *