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    News — Japanese Culture

    Obon Season Kicks Off in Little Tokyo

    Obon Season Kicks Off in Little Tokyo

    Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom that honors the spirits of one's ancestors. In Japan, the custom can consist of returning to one's hometown, visiting and cleaning the graves of ancestors and attending local obon festivals. Here in Los Angeles, the occassion can mean different things to different families. But one thing is generally recognized by all: the gift of community and culture realized through obon festivals. 

    The obon festival "circuit" in Southern California runs every June through August at various temples throughout Southern California. One of the largest obon festivals can be found at Nishi Honganji in Little Tokyo, whick kicked off tonight. This festival is marked not only by the traditional bon odori (the style of dancing performed during the festival) but also by the array of family friendly activities offered. There are games, a farmer's market, live music, bingo, and food booths serving up sushi, somen, udon plate lunches and drinks like Calpico. It's truly an event by and for people of all ages, many of whom take the time to dress in summer yukata or hapi coats. The reunion-like atmosphere, compounded by the view of the DTLA skyline against the setting sun, makes this a one of a kind cultural event in Los Angeles.   

    Nishi Obon 2017

    Nishi Obon 2017

    Nishi's festival is on again tomorrow, 7/9, from 2 to 8:30PM, and more events are on slated at other temples. For a full schedule of upcoming 2017 obon festivals in Southern California, visit this list from Japanese City.  

    2017 Southern California Cherry Blossom Guide

    2017 Southern California Cherry Blossom Guide

    Sakura - cherry blossoms - are esteemed in Japan not only for their beauty but also for their fragility and ephemeral nature. Sakura are taken so seriously that, come spring, cherry blossom "forecasts" detail the exact bloom status of the trees in different regions so that fans can time their visits accordingly. (Like this one.)  

    We can't provide such a detailed analysis here but we can help if you're wondering where and when you can catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms in Southern California this year. Here's our guide to some of our favorite spots around Los Angeles and Orange County, along with a status update as of this week. 

    LAKE BALBOA - Van Nuys

    6300 Balboa Blvd. 
    Van Nuys, CA 91406

    Lake Balboa has over 2,000 cherry trees, which surround a small lake and other greenspace. It is considered to be one of the top viewing spots in Los Angeles and therefore can get crowded. Plan accordingly.  

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/5/17: We spoke with the park office three days ago, and at the time trees were only showing "small flowers" with the peak bloom is expected to occur within the next two weeks. Their advice is: 
    1) Call the park once a week for an update - 818-756-9743
    2) Check the website: www.lakebalboa.org. It was updated this weekend, and it shows flowers beginning to bloom! 

    DESCANSO GARDENS - La Canada-Flintridge

    1418 Descanso Drive
    La Canada-Flintride, CA 91011

    Descanso Gardens hosts a very popular Cherry Blossom Festival each year.  This year, the festival runs from this weekend, March 4 and 5, and the following weekend, March 11 and 12. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. 

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/2/17: We called the Gardens and were told both weekends would be "active" and relatively the same status for viewing. However, ticket availability is much higher on the second weekend of the festival. 



    1151 Oxford Rd
    San Marino, CA 91108


    Cherry blossoms are not a central part of Huntington Gardens, but there are a few trees in the Japanese Garden. It's probably not worth an entire visit just to see those trees but rather if you're at Huntington anyway - make a stop. 

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/4/17: Flowers are either in full bloom or already past full bloom, with some trees already barren. Get here quick to see something! 

    Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Gardens Cherry Blossom 2017



    7111 Talbert Avenue
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648

    The 350-acre park has 50 cherry blossom trees, gifted to the city by their Japanese sister city, Anjo (Aichi Prefecture), in 2002.

    CHERRY BLOSSOM STATUS as of 3/5/17:  Many of the trees are partially blooming, while other trees are still just showing buds. It appears there might not be a prime time to catch all the trees at once, but there should still be something to see in the coming weeks.  
    According to festival officials, we can (fingers crossed) expect the park to still be a sight to behold during the Park's Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, March 19.  The event is held each year to celebrate the sister city relationship. **BONUS: Nebuta Arts will be hosting a pop-up shop at the Festival. Check our calendar for full details!  

    Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017Huntington Beach Central Park Cherry Blossom 2017

    A Cross-Cultural Christmas: Nebuta in the 85th Annual Christmas Parade

    A Cross-Cultural Christmas: Nebuta in the 85th Annual Christmas Parade

    For the second year in a row, the Nebutabayashi Hozonkai - of which Nebuta Arts is a part! - participated in the Hollywood Christmas Parade (HCP).  The Nebutabayashi Hozonkai is a non-profit organization responsible for developing nebuta floats and displaying them through various avenues throughout the Los Angeles area. In the past the group focused on Little Tokyo's annual Nisei Week Parade, but last year the reach was expanded to include the HCP. 


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    Aomori Food - More Than Just Apples!

    Aomori Food - More Than Just Apples!

    Every once in awhile the Japanese markets of Southern California do regional food fairs, featuring the many delicious foods from different parts of Japan. This past weekend it was Aomori's turn at Marukai Gardena.

    We admittedly went a little crazy, picking up a basket full of goodies:

    ○ Shijimi (freshwater clams)
    ○ Saba (mackerel)
    ○ Handmade apple candy
    ○ Apple juice
    ○ Yakiniku sauce w/apple
    ○ Sesame apple dressing

    (Many of the products we chose were related to the famous Aomori apple, but we also picked up some seafood - freshwater clams and my personal favorite fish, saba.)

    We incorporated these foods into our next home cooked meal:

    Homecooked "Aomori" dinner

    ○ Broiled saba with lemon and daikon oroshi (grated radish)
    ○ Miso soup with shijimi.
         - We prefer a heavy red miso. Just add in the clams as you prepare the broth.
    ○ Garden salad with sesame apple dressing
    ○ Kabocha nimono (simmered Japanese pumpkin)
         - Tip: Don't keep the kabocha on the heat too long, or it gets mushy fast. After bringing the kabocha to a boil in the dashi, ~5min on medium heat is probably all you need. 
    ○ Rice

    With addition of the miso soup and Japanese pumpkin, this is a very simple and delicious dinner for cozy fall nights. 

    What's your favorite homecooked meal? Leave us a comment below!

    Crash Course in Japanese Food + Culture

    Crash Course in Japanese Food + Culture

    Looking for a "crash course" in Japanese food and culture?

    One of the best ways to get a taste of almost everything is at the 2016 Los Angeles Japanese Food Festival, to be held Sunday, November 13, at the Universal City Hilton from 11-4PM. This event has been held for over a decade, first starting out in a Little Tokyo location and since branching out to be held in Universal City. It is sponsored by the Japanese Restaurant Association of America and the Japanese Food Culture Association, with the ultimate goal of promoting and celebrating Japanese food and Japanese culture in Southern California.

    List of food offerings:

    •   Sushi
    •   Fresh Sashimi
    •   Tempura Soba - Tempura & Buckwheet Noodle
    •   Chicken Karaage
    •   Ramen Noodles
    •   Rice Onigiri
    •   Beer
    •   Sake & Shochu
    •   Dessert
    •   and more...

    Schedule of Events:

    •   11:00am Door Opens / Taiko Drum Performance 1
    •   11:15am Opening Program / Opening Sake Barrel
    •   11:20am Taiko Drum Performance 2
    •   11:45am Ceremony Tuna Filleting
    •   12:30pm Rice Ball Workshop Demonstration 1
    •   13:15pm Sake Tasting Contest
    •   14:00pm Performance and Experience of making Sushi Roll
    •   15:00pm Rice Ball Workshop Demonstration 2
    •   15:45pm Door Prizes
    •   16:00pm Closing

    Added bonus? Nebuta Arts will be hosting a pop-up shop at the Festival from 11AM-3PM!

    • For more for information visit the Japanese Food Culture Association (JFCA).
    • Over 80 volunteers help to make this event possible each year. Interested in helping out? Find more information and sign up by 10/14/16 here.
    • Tickets are available to purchase online