70th Nisei Week Grand Parade to showcase illuminated Japanese floats called Nebuta

Cultural News, August 2010 Issue Article:

2010 Nisei Week Nebuta Parade Promotion

2009 Nise Week Queen Dana Fujiko Heatherton, right, and 2009 Princess Aimee Teruko Machida in Haneto dancer costumes of Aomori Nebuta Festival, pose in front of Nebuta float for the promotion of 2010 Nisei Week Grand Parade. (Cultural News Photo)

Come witness the streets of Little Tokyo light up with colorful, illuminated Japanese floats known as Nebuta, featured in this year’s Nisei Week Grand Parade held from 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 15.  This year two groups of community volunteers and local families, along with the people from the city of Aomori, Japan, have contributed their time to make the 70th year parade memorable.

Originating in the prefecture of Aomori, the Nebuta Festival is one of the largest traditional festivals in Japan. The floats are made of a wood base carefully covered with beautifully colored Japanese paper and lit from within with hundreds of lights. The floats draw an estimated 3.5 million participants and spectators each year to Aomori.

Bringing this experience across the Pacific, the spectacular Nebuta made its Los Angeles debut at the 2007 Nisei Week Grand Parade as a massive glowing samurai warrior designed exclusively for the City of Angels, and was met with acclaim that left spectators begging for a return.

Many more even hoped to participate in a way that could grow the tradition for the Little Tokyo community, and the Nisei Week Japanese Festival, in coordination with the Los Angeles Nebuta Committee, continues these cultural traditions in the 2010 parade.

As a new addition to the Nebuta procession, the 2010 parade will feature a project coordinated by Kitty Sankey. Sankey, a long-time community leader, is a volunteer reader to elementary students and proposed they make paper goldfish, called kingyo, to tell a story to the parade audience. Depicting Leo Lionni’s folk tale Swimmy, a story about one black fish (kingyo) in a school of red fish using both clever and wit to figure out how to protect all the fish from natural enemies, children from the Los Angeles Elementary School will carry the kingyo throughout the parade procession. As they march through the streets of Little Tokyo in drill team format, a whistle will be blown, and the children will come together and form one big kingyo.

Another group of volunteers, comprised of 12 local area families, constructed six additional Nebuta floats that will be displayed in this year’s parade. The parade’s grand finale boasts the Aomori Nebuta being accompanied by the community-made Nebuta – each moving to the music of taiko drummers, Japanese pipers and accompanied by lively Haneto dancers in traditional Japanese costumes. Since the parade begins at 5:30 p.m., the lighted floats as they trail the parade in the twilight of the summer night truly promises an experience not to be missed.

This year’s Nebuta festival is made possible through the participation of the community via

sponsorships and volunteers. The Los Angeles Nebuta Committee, headed by Mike Okamoto, has attracted more interest than in years past. “Our ultimate goal is to have each participating family contribute a large Nebuta float in hopes to gain even more support year after year,” said Okamoto. “This is sure to be another unforgettable celebration.”

For more information, visit the Los Angeles Nebuta Committee website at www.nebuta-la.org or contact Mike Okamoto at info@moainc.net.

The 2010 Nisei Week Japanese Festival will take place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district from August 14-22.

For a calendar of events and volunteer information, log on to www.NiseiWeek.org or call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193. The Nisei Week office is located at 244 South San Pedro Street, Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The Nisei Week Foundation was established in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to oversee and organize the Nisei Week Japanese Festival. The Foundation’s mission is to promote Japanese and Japanese American heritage and traditions while bringing together the diverse communities of Southern California through arts and cultural education. It does this by producing the Nisei Week Japanese Festival, a nine-day event first held in 1934 and is today one of the longest running ethnic festivals in the United States.