In very late December of 2015, I happened to meet Alison De La Cruz,  the new  Director of Performing Arts and Community Engagement for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC).

It turned out to be a very fortuitous and serendipitous meeting as I would end up working with the organization four days later, capturing images for their New Year's celebration event, Kotohajime 2016. A nice professional partnership was formed and I have worked with the JACCC several times throughout the year. 

On May 1st, 2016, they held an event entitled, Fiesta Matsuri. The JACCC described it as:  a multi-ethnic celebration for children and their families including arts & crafts workshops, games, food, and performances on the plaza. 

They also said it's where Kodomo no Hi, the Japanese Children's Day, a national holiday celebrated annually on May 5th meets  Día de los Niños, the national, annual, "Day of the Children" celebrated in Mexico on April 30th. The May 1st timing of Fiesta Matsuri is very intentional.  Literally translated from Spanish and Japanese the name, "Fiesta Matsuri" is "party party" and the day lived up to it's name. The JACCC plaza was filled with children and families and everyone was ready for a good time: 

I think Alison may have said it when giving me a rundown for the day, but I could tell from the atmosphere, that it was all about the kids and to capture their joy. There were plenty of games, arts and crafts set up: 

There was event a screen-printmaker (from Self Help Graphics). Too cool: 

The performances on stage began and it was nice to see all the eager young faces in the audience (who always look at the camera with wonder)...


Gropo Danza Azteca Ajolote started the day off with a beautiful set of Mayan dances: 

Then it was on to the cutest performance of the day from the Nishi Hongwanji Child Development Center:

This was followed by a few selections from  Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra and a taiko drum performance by El Marino Niji Daiko:

This following image was the funniest part of the day. These children from the North Torrance Elementary Ukulele Ensemble were about to perform and their instructor, Glen Kamida (the man on the far left), stood over his students and enthusiastically asked them: "So, again, what is today about?!" And the young man in the center enthusiastically replied, "YOUR REPUTATION!" This caused the moment you see below. The young man then corrected himself by saying, "our reputation." Good to see the message was getting through. 

They ended up doing a great job: 

I don't mean to break up the images of the great performances, but I like to blog and tell the stories as chronologically as possible. During the performances there were also select demonstrations happening inside of the JACCC Center Building.

I went up to the 5th floor to capture a few images of a mochi making demonstration by Brian Kito of Fugetsu-Do bakery in Los Angeles. I had not heard of or tried mochi before this day and it's delicious. It is a traditional Japanese dessert which is essentially a specific strain of rice (mochigome) which is then pounded into a paste and can be rolled or molded into any shape. In the end it's not overly sweet (which is good) and it has a chewy consistency. Think of a gum drop, but a bit softer to bite in to and chew, and with no extra sugar on top, no granulated sugar. 

As you can see below it can be colored with food dyes as well. The kids had a blast rolling and cutting their own mochi and they were able to take home a nice container or two:  

With all my running inside and out, I unfortunately missed this group's performance, but Plaza de la Raza Mariachi took a great group photo: 

This group below from Ballet Folklorico De Carolina was absolutely extraordinary. The following performance was just one of three...

And then they brought out the fans...

Again, Ballet Folklorico De Carolina would perform three different dances and change outfits each time and for this next one, let's just go ahead and shift to a new page and talk about shutter speed for a second...

The children of both Ballet Folklorico de Carolina and Fujima Kansei Odori Kai had a chance to steal the show (and of course, they did)....

This young lady is a real pro. Unfortunately her music would not play for her routine, but she continued on anyhow and performed this entire number sans music: 

The third performance from Ballet Folklorico De Carolina. Simply amazing: 

Afterward, it was back inside for Taiko Basics by UCLA Kyodo. It was a great class for the kids (and parents got in on it too...) 

This may be the longest post I have in this blog, but deservedly so, because it was a big day filled with a lot of moments and joy. I headed back outside for the conclusion of the event. The JACCC's Director of Performing Arts and Community Engagement, Alison De La Cruz, spoke a few words and was followed by the JACCC President and CEO, Leslie Ito. A few children came to the stage to help out with a raffle drawing: 

After the conclusion of the stage performances and raffle, the day wound down with more arts, crafts and games. It was one those moments at an event where I think to myself, "okay, Mal, you're probably done and can go home," but there was so much joy in the area, I stayed a while and kept working: 

Lastly a shout out to some of the JACCC staff I've worked with this year (Kent, Alison, Helen and Kisa). They do a tremendous job at every event: 

If you read and scrolled all the way to here, thanks so much for checking this page out. It was a really fun day, one that further revealed the heart of the JACCC. Again, I've worked with them on many occasions in 2016, but this event in particular showed me their dedication to children and families and it was special.

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