2011 / New Year Celebration: “Oshogatsu” Family Festival at Japanese American museum, Jan 2, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

JANM Oshogatasu Daruma RabittTo open 2011, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles will once again hold its free annual Oshogatsu (New Year) Family Festival on Sunday, January 2, 2011, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at its facility, 100 North Central Ave, in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA 90012, featuring taiko performances, food demonstrations and tastings, and arts and crafts related to the arrival of a new year. www.janm.org

Highlight of Japanese custom presentation will be the mochitsuki (rice cake pounding) demonstration by Kodama Taiko while performing on their taiko (Japanese drums) at 2:30 and 4 p.m. Kodama’s performances combine the age-old tradition of hand-pounding mochi (sweet rice) with the sounds of taiko. This energetic custom is typically performed as a preparation of the Japanese New Year.

At the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Geffen facility (next door to the museum), a special Sunday Studio activity is planned from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

In the Asian zodiac, which features a cycle of 12 years, each year featuring a different animal, 2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit. For the occasion, hands-on activities include a Bunny Petting Party with Lil’ Red’s Buckaroo Ranch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Ruthie’s Origami Corner where visitors can learn to make their own origami rabbit.

Lil’ Red’s Buckaroo Ranch is a non-profit organization. Their proceeds go towards the care, rehabilitation and re-homing of Red’s Ranch Animal Rescue farm animals.

Also geared for the whole family is the New Year’s-inspired papel picado (perforated paper) with educator Marcelino Sifuentes of MyPapelPicado.com. Papel picado is a unique folk art often used in celebrations in Mexico. Sifuentes will show participants how to make their own.

Other activities available throughout the day are the materials to make rabbit ears and a pinwheel. Visitors can take their chances in the museum store by purchasing a fukubukuro (lucky bag) that always contains more than the purchase price. A Toddler Room is also available all day.

Two food activities feature the making of zaru soba (buckwheat noodles), a Japanese New Year’s favorite, with Kidding Around the Kitchen from 1 to 4 p.m. and two organic/vegan Asian-inspired cooking classes at 12 noon and 2 p.m. with Spork Foods. Kidding around the Kitchen shows that families can make and eat food together without a lot of fuss or a huge time commitment. .

Spork Foods is a Los Angeles-based gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Jenny and Heather Goldberg. Their delicious, innovative cuisine emphasizes organic, local, and seasonal ingredients. The classes (first-come, first-served, 20-person limit per class) will make the following food: Wok tossed green beans with pickled vegetables; Asian coleslaw with a creamy black sesame dressing; and, crispy rice cakes with azuki beans and scallions.

At 1 p.m. author Susan Lendroth will read her children’s book, Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat. Maneki neko, stylized representations of a cat sitting on its back legs with one front paw raised as if waving, are commonly displayed in businesses in Japan, welcoming visitors. But the actual origin of this famous Japanese symbol is told in many ways. Lendroth’s story focuses on a samurai, a monk and a cat. Her book is available for purchase at the museum store.

Drumming will dominate the outdoor stage presentations in the museum’s plaza, beginning at 2 and at 3:30 p.m. with Drumtime. Drumtime will organize its drum circle where visitors are given the opportunity to play with their two deepest desires—to express their uniqueness and to contribute to a greater whole. The drum circle transforms a gathering of people—most with no prior musical experience—into a percussion orchestra.

At 2:30 and 4 p.m., Kodama Taiko will give their famous mochitsuki (rice cake pounding) demonstration while performing on their taiko (Japanese drums). Kodama’s performances combine the age-old tradition of hand-pounding mochi (sweet rice) with the sounds of taiko.

The day’s activities will conclude with a performance by TAIKOPROJECT, one of the premiere taiko groups in the country, at 4:30 p.m. Through public performances, education, and outreach activities, TAIKOPROJECT is committed to preserving taiko as a dynamic element of Japanese American culture and heritage.

At the Geffen, visitors will be privy to a guided tour of MOCA’s Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space show. Artist Janice Gomez will be on hand to teach participants to make a work of art that allows them to experience art in a new and different way.

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