Letsu Go! Tanabata Kazari

August 13, 2010

in Fun

Sorry things have been quiet this past week on my Facebook and Twitter. August marks the first anniversary of Letsu Go!, and I was finishing up a 6.5 foot surprise for you … the Letsu Go! kazari (decoration) for the 2nd Annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival!

The opening ceremony is today, August 13, at 5pm outside the Japanese American National Museum and MOCA in Little Tokyo, and it’s just one of over 200 kazari that’ll be on display through this Monday as part of Nisei Week festivities.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the festival, it’s based on a folk tale about two celestial lovers, banished from seeing each other, whose wishes come true when they’re allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. People in Japan celebrate this “star festival” by making paper decorations to wish for various things.

Last year, Letsu Go! kicked off with a video of the festival, and I wanted to come full circle with my own tanabata kazari to thank all of you for your readership and to wish you good luck in the next year. Though they’re traditionally made of special paper called washi, the Letsu Go! decoration is made of recyclables and well, trash, as a way to promote recycling and repurposing and to act as sort of a three-dimensional pep talk to say that the resources you need to make something awesome are right at your fingertips … now letsu go out and do it!

At the Little Tokyo Koban and Visitor’s Center, I picked up a kit that served at the skeleton for the decoration:

tanabata kazari kit

tanabata kazari kit

The folks there were very generous with their time, teaching me how to connect it all together and how to make the flowers that are clustered on the top “ball” portion:

tanabata kazari flowers

tanabata kazari flowers

See the bits of green on the brown flowers? Those are sliced up plastic shopping bags from Fresh & Easy! The white flowers are made of bags from everywhere in-between JCPenny and Banana Republic, but mostly from Mitsuwa and Albertsons.

Below that is the ring on which I attached paper chains:

tanabata kazari paper chains

tanabata kazari paper chains

Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one going crazy with more than 1,000 individual links rustling about the house. If you’re able to see it in person, look out for the red stripes from a Fosselman’s Ice Cream “keep it cool” paper bag, magenta and dark blue from The Container Store, or a rainbow of colors from a Nordstrom’s anniversary sale.

To make the chains more easy on the eye to focus on, and to give the kazari a little sparkle, the inside of the ring has a wall of long streamers made of snack wrappers with their silver-linings facing outward. Here’s the view if you were to stand underneath it:

tanabata kazari streamers

tanabata kazari streamers

And here’s the finished piece of recycled art I dropped off yesterday afternoon:

Letsu Go! tanabata kazari

Letsu Go! tanabata kazari

I snuck in as many sevens as I could in the patten, like the seven individual flowers that make up each larger flower and the seven rows of the paper chain checkerboard. Coincidentally, I used up about seven rolls of double-stick tape!

Please come out to the Tanabata Festival! Thanks again for following Letsu Go!

P.S. My hands. They need a massage. I can barely type!


The 41st Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage takes place this weekend, and the theme for this year’s event is “Civil Rights: Unfinished Business.” Sponsored by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Manzanar Committee, the pilgrimage commemorates the unjust imprisonment of 110,000 Americans of Japanese decent during World War II. Hundreds of people will drive over or hop on the bus from Little Tokyo to the site of what was once the Manzanar War Relocation Center.

Will you be one of them?

Manzanar Pilgrimage in 2009

Manzanar Pilgrimage in 2009 by Gann Matsuda

The first pilgrimage started with a smaller group in 1969, or so they thought. For two ministers, Rev. Sentoku Mayeda and Rev. Shoichi Wakahiro, that year marked their 25th pilgrimage!

Please join in on the following programs … all free and open to the public!


April 23, 2010, 4pm – 6pm
Eastern California Museum
155 North Grant Street, Independence, CA

This museum has a Manzanar permanent exhibit, including a replica of a typical apartment in the internment camp barracks and a collection of artifacts from former internees Shiro Nomura and Mary Kageyama Nomura.

Pilgrimage Ceremony

April 24, 2010, 12pm – 2pm
Manzanar National Historic Site (cemetery)
5001 Highway 395, Independence, CA‎
(map it or RSVP for the Little Tokyo bus!)

  • Presentation of Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy “Baka Guts” Award to Keith Bright and Bill Michael for their efforts to help preserve Manzanar
  • Speaker Takashi “Tak” Hoshizaki (Heart Mountain Wyoming Foun­dation, former Heart Mountain Relocation Center internee, draft resister)
  • Performance by UCLA Kyodo Taiko
  • Memorial service with Buddhist, Christian, Konko, and Muslim ministers
  • Ondo dancing
  • More!

After the ceremony, there will be guided walks of the site from 2:30pm to 3:30pm.

Additional programs at the site’s Interpretive Center, open from 9am to 5:30pm:

  • Art show and sale – “Selected Artists from the Henry Fukuhara Annual Alabama Hills and Manzanar Workshop”
  • Screening of the short documentary “Remembering Manzanar” every half hour
  • Authors Kimberly and Kaleigh Komatsu sign their children’s book “In America’s Shadow” from 9:30am to 11:30am and from 2pm to 4:30pm

Manzanar At Dusk (MAD)

April 24, 2010, 5pm – 7:45pm
Lone Pine High School (gymnasium)
538 South Main Street, Lone Pine, CA
(map it or RSVP for the Little Tokyo bus!)

Meet former internees as they share their stories, and take part in group discussions on the relevance of the internment camp experience to current events and issues.

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Back in 1998, I sent in a photo of a couple of turtles that was published in the Rafu Shimpo for a “Wild Life” themed photo contest. Probably the only time I submitted a photo anywhere … until now! I am thankful and honored that this photo I took at the Tanabata Festival last year has been accepted into an art exhibit celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Tanabata Dance

Tanabata Dance

How I wish I could be in Indiana tonight!

ImaginAsian: Identity and Experience in Contemporary Asian Pacific America
April 2, 2010 – May 9, 2010
Opening reception: April 9, 6pm – 8pm

Tippecanoe Arts Federation
638 North Street, Lafayette, IN 47901

Gallery Hours
Tuesday – Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday: 1pm – 4pm

ImaginAsian contributors:
Kate Agathon, Keiko Agena, Jimmy Aquino, Jeremy Arambulo, Lindsay Bauer, Darren Lee Brown, Minh Carrico, Jef Castro, Roxana Cazan, May-Lee Chai, Lillian Chan, Bernard Chang, Cliff Chiang, Dan Choi, Keith Chow, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Dawen, Far East Movement, Angelina Fielding, Kip Fulbeck, Kian Goh, Larry Hama, Lisa Hanasono, Congressman Mike Honda, Edward Hong, Senator Daniel Inouye, Michael Kang, Margaret Kasahara, Maxine Hong Kingston, Yuri Kochiyama, Stella Lai, Jennifer 8. Lee, Judy Lei, Jianming Li, Tao Lin, Jerry Ma, Nhat Meyer, Goh Nakamura, Kim-Duyen Nguyen, Bich Minh Nguyen, Bao Phi, Parry Shen, Akemi Shimbashi, Beau Sia, William L. Snyder, Lac Su, Ryan Suda, Amy Tan, Nishiki Tayui, Tak Toyoshima, Donnytello Tran, Sophia Travis, Phil Yu, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Joz Wang, Frank Wu, William Wu, Jeff Yang

Letsu Go! photo details:
Tanabata Dance
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA
August 14, 2009
Yosakoi Sooran Kashu Rengo Hyuga performs at the opening ceremony of the 1st Annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival, a part of the 69th Annual Nisei Week Festival celebrating Japanese American culture.

Check out the ImaginAsian exhibition pieces (pdf), contributor biographies (pdf), and Facebook group! Proceeds from the event will go towards the purchase of Asian American Studies materials for the Purdue University Libraries.

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Mikawa Kenichi

Hello, Mr. Mikawa Kenichi!

More than half of the New Year’s Eves in my life were spent watching the “Kouhaku” with my parents. It’s no wonder that to this day, I love karaoke and costumes.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, “Kouhaku Uta Gassen” is an annual televised singing competition shot in Japan with a live audience. If you’re lucky, you can catch it on TV in the states, too. For me, it was one of those festivities to look forward to at the end of each year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kouhaku.

Basically, a committee rounds up the top Japanese music stars from the worlds of pop, folk, adult contemporary, rock, whatever was hot that year. Whether they’re solo singers, duos, groups acts, or bands, the stars are placed by gender onto the white team (men) or the red team (women). Each team takes turns sending out members to the stage to duke it out for national singing glory. This is SERIOUS stuff. The judges and audience vote at the end of several hours, and red or white is crowned the year’s winner.

My mom and I would inevitably say the same things at the TV each year: “What IS this band pronouncing their Japanese all weird?” “She looks so young for her age!” “White team might win again this year.” If I happened to be in my bedroom watching some Dick Clark, my mom would yell out for me to come over when Mikawa Kenichi and Kobayashi Sachiko were about to do their thing, the highlights of many-a-year’s program with their elaborate costumes and sets.

Hurray for sequins! Happy New Year!

Like most Japanese TV singing programs, you can follow along with the words at the bottom of the screen. I can’t read Japanese that quickly, but it was guaranteed that at least once during the show, I’d stand in the middle of the family room, imitate the singing by ear, and make up for the lack of language skills with a flourish of dramatic arm movements in my pajamas.

Thus, it’s only natural that I’m super excited to announce this upcoming event which is all about monomane (impersonation) of Kouhaku singers!

Grateful Crane Ensemble's 'Kouhaku'

Grateful Crane Ensemble's 'Kouhaku'

Grateful Crane Ensemble presents

Natsukashi no Kouhaku Uta Gassen

Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 11am and 3 pm
Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 2 pm (Updated on 4/20: This performance is SOLD OUT)

Tateuchi Democracy Forum
111 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012

The singing battle of the sexes is coming to Little Tokyo! And YOU decide the outcome.

It’s the “Men vs. the Women” in our delightful spoof of Japan’s famous New Year’s Eve singing contest “Kouhaku Uta Gassen.” Join the fun as we present some of Japan’s most famous and nostalgic songs along with humorous imitations of the singers who sing them, including Mikawa Kenichi, Mori Shinichi, Itsuki Hiroshi, Jero, Saijo Hideki, Go Hiromi, Misora Hibari, Tendo Yoshimi, Wada Akiko, Ishikawa Sayuri, Asaoka Megumi, Natsukawa Rimi, Sen Masao, Frank Nagai, Murata Hideo, Nakamura Mitsuko, Chiaki Naomi, Yamaguchi Momoe, and SMAP!

Written by Soji Kashiwagi
Directed by Keiko Kawashima
Sound design by Scott Nagatani

Featuring: Aaron Aoki, Loryce Hashimoto, Haruye Ioka, Keiko Kawashima, Hideo Kimura, Darrell Kunitomi, Kurt Kuniyoshi, Aimee Machida, Merv Maruyama, Junko Nakamura, Helen Ota, Shaun Shimoda, and Fusako Shiotani

General admission: $25
Seniors, students, and Japanese American National Museum members: $23
Groups of 10 or more: $20

To order tickets, please call the Grateful Crane hotline: (323) 769-5503


Vroman’s in Pasadena hosted a launch party for author Naomi Hirahara and her new book, Blood Hina, on March 3, 2010. The event was held on Hinamatsuri, Japanese Girls’ Day, as a tie-in to the story. Here’s a description from the Vroman’s website:

Blood Hina is the fourth installment of Naomi Hirahara’s highly acclaimed “Mas Arai” mystery series, which also include Summer of the Big Bachi, Gasa-Gasa Girl, and Snakeskin Shamisen. Mas’ best friend Haruo is getting married, and prickly, stubborn Mas has grudgingly agreed to serve as best man. But then an ancient Japanese doll display of Haruo’s fiancee goes missing, and the wedding is called off with fingers pointed at Haruo. To clear his friend’s name, Mas must first uncover a world of heartbreaking memories, deception, and murder.

Listen as Naomi reads an excerpt from the beginning of the novel:

Video of Naomi Hirahara Reading Blood Hina by Letsu Go!


Additional book signings with Naomi Hirahara this month:

Saturday, March 6
, 2010, 11 AM – 5 PM

2:30 PM Naomi reads from Blood Hina
JAHSSC Authors/Artists Faire

Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, Community Meeting Room

3301 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA


Thursday, March 11 – Sunday, March 14
, 2010
Left Coast Crime
Omni Hotel
251 South Olive St., Los Angeles, CA
Note: This convention is for registrants only. Naomi conducts a Flower Mart Walking Tour, interviews Barry Eisler, and participates on panels for the LA Noir Two-Launch and Novels for the Young Adult.

Saturday, March 20
, 2010, 2 PM
Book’em Mysteries

1118 Mission St.
, South Pasadena, CA


Saturday, March 27, 2010, 5 PM
Akashic Noir anthology series event: Los Angeles Noir 2
Skylight Books

1818 N. Vermont Ave.
, Los Angeles, CA



Yelp Before You Die Mashup

February 26, 2010

in Food

Today, the LA Weekly released Mr. Jonathan Gold’s awesome article “99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die.” Several dishes at Japanese restaurants around Los Angeles, including Urawasa, Matsuhisa, Wa Sushi, Kiroko, and Kiyokawa, made the list, woo! I recently created a Yelp account, and I just found out I can only make lists out of the places I’ve already reviewed on Yelp. Eh? Why can’t I create a list of the places I dream of going to, Yelp? Like everything on Gold’s list?

So forget Yelp. Or at least its listing feature. Here’s a list of everything on Gold’s 99 before you die list with corresponding links to Yelp, so you can more easily access maps and additional reviews about these eats. Enjoy!

  1. Urasawa’s Fugu
  2. Bulgarini’s Goat’s Milk Gelato
  3. Romanesco at the Weiser Family Farms stand at farmers markets in Beverly Hills, Claremont, Hollywood, Long Beach, Pasadena, Venice, and Santa Monica on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays here and here
  4. Masan’s San Nak Ji
  5. Sherry Yard’s Kaiserschmarrn at Spago
  6. Tito’s Old-School Tacos
  7. Luna Oysters at the Carlsbad Aquafarm stand at farmers markets in Hollywood and Santa Monica on Wednesdays and Saturdays
  8. Chantilly’s Sesame Cream Puffs
  9. Golden Deli’s Vietnamese Spring Rolls
  10. Langer’s Hot Pastrami
  11. Cut’s Bone-Marrow Flan
  12. Little Flower’s Sea-Salt Caramels
  13. Newport Seafood’s Spicy Lobster
  14. Matsuhisa’s New-Style Sashimi
  15. Angeli’s Gnocchi
  16. Eva’s Lechon
  17. Rivera’s Tortillas
  18. Wa Sushi’s Apple Pie and Eel
  19. Casa Bianca’s Sausage-and-Eggplant Pizza
  20. Huarache de Cabeza
  21. Kogi’s Kalbi Taco
  22. Canary’s Lamb-Tongue Sandwich
  23. Fab L.A.’s Street Dog
  24. El Tepeyac Café’s Hollenbeck Burrito
  25. Whatever Lou Tells You to Drink
  26. Anisette’s Pain au Chocolat
  27. Lazy Ox’s Paleron With Kumquats and Cream of Wheat
  28. Musso & Frank’s Welsh Rarebit
  29. Ciro’s Flautas
  30. The Gorbals’ Dill Fries
  31. Jitlada’s Fish Kidneys
  32. Loteria Grill’s Chicharrones de Queso
  33. Ivy’s Corn Chowder
  34. Philippe’s French Dip
  35. Cole’s French Dip
  36. El Parian’s Birria
  37. La Brea Bakery’s Country White Bread
  38. Hot Dog on a Stick at various locations
  39. Chinois’ Sizzling Catfish
  40. Apple Pan’s Hickoryburger
  41. Brooklyn’s Hearth-Baked Bagel
  42. Palate’s Vegetables en Papillote
  43. Akasha’s Quinoa With Edamame
  44. Donut Man’s Strawberry Doughnut
  45. Chili John’s Chili
  46. 101 Noodle Express’ Beef Roll in Arcadia and Alhambra
  47. La Mill’s Eva Solo-Brewed Coffee
  48. Oki Dog
  49. Comme Ca’s Cheeseburger
  50. Saffron Spot’s Saffron Silk Ice Cream
  51. Giang Nan’s Yellow Fish Fried With Hair Seaweed
  52. Mozza Pizza
  53. Shanghai Xiao Chi’s Pork Pump
  54. JTYH Restaurant’s Shanxi Knife-Cut Noodles
  55. Beverly Soon Tofu
  56. Pho Minh’s Pho Bac
  57. Bigmista’s Pig Candy at farmers markets in Atwater, Torrance, and El Segundo
  58. Euro Pane’s Egg Salad Sandwich
  59. Mandarin House’s cha chiang mein
  60. Little Dom’s Oyster Po’ Boy
  61. Street-Vendor Cheese Enchiladas – not on Yelp “but she seems to operate about one block from the vendors who tweet as @BreedStScene
  62. A-Won’s Al Bap
  63. Brandt Beef at HOWS supermarkets
  64. Krakatoa-Blend Coffee – beans sold at Surfas and Monkey & Son
  65. El Atacor #11′s Potato Tacos
  66. Rajdhani’s Thali
  67. Ludo’s Fried Chicken at LudoBites pop-up restaurants
  68. Lawry’s Prime Rib
  69. Campanile’s Grilled Prime Rib
  70. Mo-Chica’s Seviche
  71. Banh Mi from Mr. Baguette in Monterey Park, Rosemead, and South El Monte
  72. Animal’s Foie Gras & Biscuits and Gravy
  73. Chichen Itza’s Panuchos
  74. Krua Thai’s Pad Thai
  75. Ancient Ginger Soup at Noodle Island
  76. MCGrath’s Rainbow Chard at the McGrath’s Family Farms stand at farmers markets in Santa Monica on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Hollywood
  77. Border Grill’s Green Corn Tamales
  78. Lupe’s #2 Burrito
  79. Good Girl Dinette’s Chicken PotPie
  80. Harry’s Seascape Strawberries at a TON of farmers markets
  81. Michael Cimarusti’s Squid With Piquillo Peppers and Pig’s Ear at Providence
  82. THE Grill on the Alley’s Corned Beef Hash
  83. Kiriko’s Salmon Sashimi
  84. Nickel Diner’s Maple Bacon Donut
  85. Bay Cities’ Godmother
  86. Din Tai Fung’s Soup Dumplings
  87. Bob’s Plain Doughnut
  88. Let’s Be Frank’s Hot Dog
  89. Meals by Genet’s Doro Wot
  90. Sapp Coffee Shop’s Boat Noodles
  91. Bludso’s Brisket
  92. Park’s L.A. Galbi
  93. Capital’s Hot Almond Milk in Pastry
  94. Kiyokawa’s Sashimi
  95. Chung King’s Chongqing Fried Chicken
  96. Pollo a la Brasa’s Peruvian Roast Chicken
  97. Natraliart’s Sprats
  98. Hungry Cat’s Lobster Roll
  99. Huckleberry’s Maple-Bacon Biscuits