Nisei Week: Dance, Gyoza, Rubik's Cubes

The venerable Japanese Festival fills Little Tokyo with song, martial arts demos, and more.

If you've called Southern California home for some time -- oh, let's say a few decades, long enough to really know the lay of this lovely, lively land -- you can probably name at least one or two of the festivals and large-scale parties that have been around for over three-quarters of a century.

For sure, Chinatown's Golden Dragon Parade is well over a century along, as is the Tournament of Roses. You may have also named Nisei Week Japanese Festival, which started in 1934 "as a way to lift the cloud of the Great Depression." World War II stopped the festivities for several years, but Nisei Week soon returned as robust and dance-laden and beautiful as ever.

And brimming with happenings. The Little Tokyo celebration runs from Saturday, Aug. 9 through Sunday, Aug. 17, and what you do or watch or participate in is a real sky's-the-limit kind of thing.

Or gyoza's-the-limit, rather. The oh-so-popular and highly watched Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza-Eating Championships are set for Saturday, Aug. 16, meaning a hearty crew of gourmands'll be downing a whole bunch of dumplings, for glory. A Rubik's Cube open is scheduled for the Saturday before that -- Aug. 9 -- meaning a bunch of fast thinkers'll be putting colorful squares back in the right order.

Car shows, ramen enjoyment, beer gardens, balls, taiko gatherings, ondo dances, and martial arts displays are also on the roster.

As for the famous tanabata, which flutter all streamer-like next to the Japanese American National Museum? If you want to behold this visual spectacle, get to Little Tokyo on Saturday, Aug. 9. There are over 240 tanabata to admire, works of ephemeral art created by "more than 3,000 community members of all ages."

That's absolutely the stuff that Nisei Week is made of, and why it remains one of Southern California's longest-lasting and neighborhood-nicest festivals. Here's to several more decades of tanabata, ondo, taiko, and gyoza.

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