San Jose Japantown’s Nikkei Matsuri shares Japanese heritage

RUNNING ON — San Jose Taiko greets runners as they finish the Yu-Ai Kai Nihonmachi Run; photo by Erin Yasuda Soto/Nichi Bei Weekly

SAN JOSE — Offering a mix of art, food, and entertainment, the 34th annual Nikkei Matsuri drew swarms of people to San Jose’s Japantown on May 1.

The drumbeats of San Jose Taiko filled the air as shoppers perused vendor booths and diners feasted on teriyaki burgers and Spam musubi. Other activities included Yu-Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Service’s Fun Run and Health Fair and Suzume No Gakko’s (Children’s Cultural Program) Arts and Crafts area.

Warren Hayashi, president of Nikkei Matsuri, said that the festival experienced another successful year.

“We had an excellent turnout. The weather was in our favor,” Hayashi said of the many people who came out on the warm spring day.

Emcee Mike Inouye, the morning traffic anchor for NBC Bay Area’s weekday morning news, said, “There are some fantastic booths and wonderful arts and crafts.”

The goal of Nikkei Matsuri is to share the Japanese American culture and heritage with the community.

Hayashi said, “Our main objective is to perpetuate the Japanese culture of our grandparents who came from Japan.”

In addition to San Jose Taiko, the festival featured a variety of other entertainment, including students from Ukulele Jams, Community Youth Service dancers, and the San Jose Chidori Band. Other entertainment included Japanese classical dancers and an Okinawan dance and drum group Chikaho-Kai.

“It was nice to see performances from the adults and children who are part of the community,” said Hayashi, who added that the entertainment is rotated each year so various groups can participate in the festival.

Hayashi added that one of the main goals of this year’s event was to raise money for relief efforts in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Donations, Hayashi said, will support the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia, an international humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical assistance to people impacted by disasters.

TALENTED TOTS — Members of the Community Youth Service; photo by Erin Yasuda Soto/Nichi Bei Weekly

“The organization responds to disasters in Asia. We’re requesting that all money be used for earthquake and tsunami victims. The money goes directly to the people,” Hayashi said.

“There is especially a need for medical supplies and the doctors are all pro bono,” he said.
Hayashi added that after the quake and tsunami happened, the Nikkei Matsuri committee developed the idea of gathering donations.

In addition to initiating the fundraising effort for Northeastern Japan’s relief efforts, Nikkei Matsuri also took steps to be more environmentally friendly this year.

“For the first time, Nikkei Matsuri went green, which was a huge success,” Hayashi said.

“Nothing was wasted. We had very little trash that went to the landfill. The rest of the trash we had was compostable. We had a good deal of throwaways that fell into compostable categories. For the first time around, I was very happy we did as well as we did,” Hayashi said.

He said that the ultimate goal of the festival is to maintain a focus on the Japanese American culture.

“From the entertainment to the food, we want to keep it connected to the Japanese American culture in some way,” Hayashi said.

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