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KANAGAWA

Party picks up in Chinatown this weekend

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

While it seems politics is all that comes to mind when talking about China these days, the current New Year’s holiday shows what a remarkable breadth of culture the country has.

It just so happens that Yokohama is home to one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. No political differences have been able to stop the party in that neighborhood since it officially kicked off last Sunday.

As with most festivals, firecrackers are in abundance, lion and dragon mascots strut down the street, and bands have kept the music flowing. The party comes to a head this weekend, however, with more fun events coming up at Yamashita Park. Traditional Chinese circus troupes will show up to further boost the festivity. Among participating performers is a group of graduates from the Yokohama Yamanote Chinese School. They will perform a shishimai lion dance, a time-honored Chinese folk performance that requires practitioners to acquire a combination of complicated skills used by stage actors, martial-arts experts and street entertainers. Long believed to exorcise evil spirits from people, shishimai has been considered a symbol of Chinese people’s bravery and diligence.

Cho Kairin, a Chinese acrobatic expert, will also join the event with a stream of daredevil feats likely to leave visitors agape the whole time they watch him. Endowed with an extraordinary sense of balance, he can toss a 2.5-kg vase up in the air, catch it as if it were a soccer ball, and can make it slide across his body with perfect elegance.

On Sunday, from 2 p.m., a group of people clad in China’s grandiose imperial costumes will parade through the street beginning from Yamashita Park.

A series of New Year’s-related events are taking place in Yokohama’s Chinatown and other places until Feb. 24. For more information, call: (045) 662-1252 or visit www.chinatown.or.jp.