LOS ANGELES – Visitors to the Aquarium of the Pacific at the fifth annual Autumn Festival last weekend in Long Beach, Calif., were treated to glowing jellyfish, dagger-sharp shark teeth, frisky sea lions and Japanese “taiko” drumming.
The yearly festival celebrates the richness of Asian cultures, including those of Japan, China, South Korea and the Philippines, and the animals that hail from these Pacific regions.
Visitors were invited to explore the arts, food, culture and marine environments of the Asian communities featured in the festival. Japanese cultural events included martial arts, origami, craft demonstrations, and the “one-man-band” wonder, Arthur “Art” Nakane.
Yoichi “Yama” Yamaouchi and Joe Hamamoto worked with enthusiasm at the Origami Magic booth, helping dozens of children take turns in shaping creatures of the Pacific Ocean out of colorful paper.
Hamamoto retired 15 years ago and has volunteered at the Autumn Festival origami booth for the past three years. “I love it. I always meet such lovely people here.”
Two drumming groups, the Hikari Taiko Drummers and the Daion Taiko Drummers, sent bellowing beats throughout the aquarium during performances that attracted large crowds.
Both groups performed before an enormous floor-to-ceiling tank housing colorful marine life from the Pacific. More than one person was overheard commenting, “I wonder how the fish feel about all this drumming?”
Kyuka Kanesake, who has taught cultural classes throughout greater Los Angeles since 1979, displayed her intricate, hand-made Japanese dolls and ornaments.
“It’s exciting. Everyone always has a lot of questions. Especially, ‘Wow, how long does that take?’ ” Kanesake said with a laugh.
The martial arts group Samurai Action Studio set up a large tent where children could look at authentic samurai armor and see martial arts demonstrations.
Nearby, “one-man-band” Nakane stole the show with his ability to simultaneously play guitar, drum, keyboard and harmonica, sing in three-languages, and keep an eccentric auburn wig from flying off his flailing head.
Nakane has been featured on numerous television shows and is the subject of a documentary titled “Secret Asian Man.”
The Autumn Festival is a joint project of the Aquarium of the Pacific and RYOMA, an organization founded to administer cultural events to bridge generations and expose the mainstream population to the cultural arts.
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