Master Bando Hirohichiro instructs dance group leaders in one of the dances that will be performed at the Nisei Week Grand Parade. (TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo)

By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer

Preparations for the Nisei Week Japanese Festival in August have finally begun, and Master Bando Hirohichiro, the parade dance choreographer for this year, has revealed the two new dances to the dance group leaders who will take part in the parade.

At the Chuo Gakuen gymnasium in Boyle Heights, the dancers took the first lessons.

Hirohichiro and his disciples in matching red yukata with the Bando-ryu crest demonstrated this year’s parade songs, “Manekineko Ondo” and “We Are” (from the anime “One Piece”). The attendees, representing the various local dance groups and organizations, will bring back the dances to teach their members to prepare for the parade.

The Grand Parade on Sunday, Aug. 13, is a highlight of the two-week festival.

Hirohichiro explained that the song selections suit this year’s festival, in which people are reuniting and having fun together after a time of separation because of the pandemic.

“As you all know, the manekineko (beckoning cat) brings good fortune, and the anime ‘One Piece’ is a story about a diverse group of people coming together to search for treasure,” he said.

“Manekineko” is a hand dance (no props), and “We Are” uses a fan. Whether a member of a dance group or not, anyone can join the parade in the public dance line. The ondo practices will be held at JACCC Plaza, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo, starting Tuesday, July 25, from 7 to 9 p.m. Other dates are Thursday, July 27; Tuesday, Aug. 1; and Thursday, Aug. 3.

The first half of each session is for the parade dances and the second half is for the street ondo to be held on Sunday, Aug. 20, the last day of the festival.

During intermission from 7:45 to 8 p.m., JACCC will provide hiyashi chuuka (cold ramen) prepared by Chef Keizo Shimamoto, the inventor of the Ramen Burger. Donations will be accepted.

Hirohichiro encouraging people to join the practice, saying, “If there are any points that are difficult to understand, I will teach you. I would like you to take on the challenge.”

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