Posted by Jocelyn Gao and Emily Liang
The annual Oshogatsu Festival, sponsored by the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC) and the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), united the community to celebrate the New Year on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Japantown. The festival took place at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in San Francisco’s historic Japantown neighborhood. The Youth Advisory Council took part in the celebration by selling food and hosting an arts and crafts table. The food and mochi-pounding was downstairs while the arts, crafts, and performances were located upstairs.
On the second floor, a newly waxed gym was filled with kids’ joyous’ laughter. Tables were set near the perimeter of the gym, each holding its unique craft relating to the year of the dog. Towards the middle of the gym, the stage and seats were lined symmetrically. While various groups performed, excited children skipped to the crafts that caught their eye. One of these crafts was YAC’s dog puppet, which consisted of decorating a brown paper bag with googly eyes, ears, a nose, and a tail. As the children scavenged through the various colors and materials, they began to get more creative; often they would create some of their favorite characters, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Lightning McQueen. It was heartwarming to see their happiness as they shared their work with their parents.
Downstairs, in the meantime, the Youth Advisory Council was busy selling chicken katsu plates and black milk tea. Each chicken katsu plate contained rice, assorted vegetables or potato salad, and, of course, chicken katsu. While selling the food, members of YAC were able to see the mochi pounding across the room, where the audience was actually invited to participate in the pounding. Some of YAC indulged in this and helped with pounding the mochi. At the same time, other members of YAC enjoyed snacks from other food vendors, such as miso soup and rice cakes.
The Oshogatsu festival was a great opportunity for YAC to be connected to the community, and it definitely fulfilled that goal. Whether by assisting children or serving food, the whole experience was incredibly rewarding and a fantastic way to welcome the new year.