Oshogatsu – Japanese New Year
The Japanese New Year (Oshogatsu) celebration in Little Tokyo was a cultural delight. Traditional music, taiko drums, the luck lion, kimono contests, martial arts demonstrations, helicopter fly-by, mochi pounding, and live-action power-ranger-esque stage performance.
Since having kids we skip the late-night New Year bashes and exchange a decent night sleep for traveling the abandoned Los Angeles freeways New Year’s morning. This year we drove right into the heart of LA and join in the Little Tokyo New Year (Oshogatsu) celebration. We didn’t know a lot about Japaneses culture, but we came away enlightened. I loved the food, Peter liked the martial arts, J loved the koto music, K enjoyed the origami table. What a fun day!
The performance stage was in Weller Court, the atrium of a multilevel shopping complex. There was seating down by the stage, but there were plenty of vantage points on the upper tiers.
The presentation started with introductions of those responsible for the festivities and high positioned Japanese individuals in the LA community. This included LAPD Deputy Chief Hara who invited the LAPD helicopter to circle in and give everyone a New Years shout from above.
After the traditional breaking of the Sake barrel, the performances began. Both boys were scared of the taiko drums, but the string instruments were less intimidating. The koto (kind of like a harp) and sanshin (a lot like a banjo) were performed by famous Japaneses musicians. While the musical performances continued on, we thought it would be a good time to explore the rest of the festival, but our older son lagged behind and asked to stay. To my surprise, he genuinely likes koto music! J is adverse to nearly every genre of music, but he enjoyed the koto so much he wanted to sit and listen.
For thee traditional Lion Dance, a red lion stalks through the crowd. If he bites you, it’s good luck in the year to come! K was close, but failed to get nipped.
J was excited to see the FUJIYAMA ICHIBAN, which was similar to a live-action Power Rangers. Afterwards, he refused to talk about it. The performance was an elaborately costumed, cacophonous muddle of confusion. It was definitely a case of culture shock.
Little Tokyo is “little”, arrive early for parking.