9th Annual L.A. Tanabata Festival on Aug. 18-20

Kazari at last year’s Tanabata Festival. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The ninth annual Los Angeles Tanabata Festival is set for Friday, Aug. 18, through Sunday, Aug. 20, as part of the 77th Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

The Tanabata Festival offers stunning giant kazari decorations, entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, traditional Japanese food booths, games for the kids and information. The admission-free event is located on the outdoor plaza of MOCA at the Geffen and the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. at First Street in historic Little Tokyo.

The festivities kick off Aug. 18 with the opening ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m., featuring Minyo Station, Scott Nagatani, Nancy Teramura Hayata and Yuujou Taiko. The Kazari Contest winners will be announced and the traditional breaking of the sake barrel, sponsored by Mutual Trading, will take place. The festival continues Aug. 19 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The highlight of the Tanabata Festival is the seven-foot kazari decorations, which date back to the Sendai Festival in Japan. The kazari are created by members of the greater Los Angeles community from nonprofit organizations, individuals/families, Japanese prefectural association groups, businesses and government offices to come together to celebrate their cultural heritage.

This year the theme is “Hero,” and by creating a kazari we celebrate the legendary love of Orihime and Hikoboshi, on which the Tanabata legend is based, and the wish for a loving future. Each kazari is an earthly representation of a star in the Milky Way that can become our wish for something beautiful for us and our community.