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.
Getting ready to participate in what is hailed as the largest Christmas event in America is no small feat. Months of careful planning is involved, including music and dance practice plus the logistics of transporting the nebuta float. Special haneto dancers from across Japan fly in a few days before. On the day of the Parade, group members and volunteers first gather off-site to be dressed in haneto outfits and finish other preparation. "Mr. Haneto 2015", fresh in from Aomori, was there to help rally everyone:
After everyone was ready, we moved to the staging area in Hollywood to await our turn. It's not every day you see a hundred Haneto dancers walking through Hollywood and taiko drummers warming up on the streets. We definitely got some strange looks:
Night fell. We watched several characters pass by, as their position was before us:
After a long wait, it was finally our turn! The first part of the Parade includes a debut on the red carpet. The grandstands are filled and lights are glaring down, making it hard to see what's really going on. It's quite overwhelming. I was in front of the nebuta, so unfortunately I couldn't hear the explanation of the float or see the audience's reaction...
All we could do was continue on the 3 mile parade route. This being my first HCP, one thing that really surprised me was how friendly and encouraging parade-goers were. We passed several Japanese people in the audience who screamed "GANBARE!" as we strolled by. Other people waved and yelled a cheerful "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays."
After continuing down several blocks, we reached the end of the HCP route. I was cold but elated to have been able to share nebuta with a new audience. As we prepared to transport the float, other Parade participants walked by and remarked at how "pretty" and "beautiful" the float was. For the first time that night, I was finally able to look up and take the time to appreciate the illumunated float for myself. It really was a sight to see against a clear black Hollywood sky:
Want to join in the fun at the next community event? No experience is needed to participate. To learn more, check out LANEBUTA.COM.