Monday, August 15, 2011

Nisei Week 2011: Cosplay and Parade thoughts

A familiar face cosplaying as Haruhi Suzumiya
Events and festivals highlight the culture of the people celebrating it. Anime Expo is a celebration of the rich culture of anime and manga in Japan and the United States. The Riverside Lunar Festival is a celebration of the rich history of the Riverside Asian culture. The oldest continuous ethnic event in the United States is Nisei Week, which has celebrated its 71st year. Nisei is the term used to describe second generation Japanese-Americans. As the culture changed, so has Nisei week to accommodate for the changes. There is an emphasis in traditional Japanese culture, but there is also a rise in aspects of popular Japanese culture, which comprises of JPOP, Anime, and Manga. Nisei week is a great event that showcases the new and the old, and it shows that they can be together in harmony.

When determining what day to go, it was pretty much a toss-up between Saturday and Sunday. I originally planned to go to another event on Saturday, but plans fell apart and I ended up going to an Indian casino with family members. I left early on Sunday and it did take some time because of the horrendous traffic on Interstate 5. As I arrived we ate in Curry House and I picked up the latest volumes of Fujimura-kun Mates and Hayate the Combat Butler from Kinokuniya. As I walked to the main event area, one of my friends actually arrived at the same time. It was pretty crazy since I thought Kat would arrive before I did (for those of you who don’t know, I had 3 cosplay photo shoots during Anime Expo with her). It is our little in joke that I have become her official photographer for Anime Conventions. While we do joke about it, there is a little layer of truth there since she loves my photographic style and I am a big fan of her work in the cosplay community.

Can't get enough Madoka
As I arrived at the main meeting site, my cosplay photography instincts kicked in. I hung out with my friends Kat, Carlo, Francis, and David, but every so often I would be pulled away from them to do some cosplay photography. The cosplayers in Nisei Week were awesome; it was so much fun seeing many of the same faces that I see during Anime Expo or any of the other local anime cons. One of my favorite cosplayers in Nisei Week was a Madoka Kaname cosplayer from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I had a chance to talk to her, and I was pleasantly surprised that she was in the group that did the first Madoka Magica skit during Anime Expo’s Masquerade. One of my favorite cosplayers also arrived at the same time, Mikari. She cosplayed as Luka from Vocaloid and we headed off to the gardens to do my one and only official cosplay shoot during the event. To be honest, I didn’t want to shackle myself to photo shoots in this event so the shoot with Mikari was completely unplanned. It was my intention just to hang out with her and her husband since I haven’t seen them in so long, one thing led to another and we ended up doing a shoot. It was fun talking to many of the cosplayers as a cosplay photographer and as one of the chief executives of the organization behind Anime Expo. Let’s just say that I got some interesting responses from cosplayers when I gave them my SPJA business card.

Olympic Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu,
(The one in the Purple Kimono).
After that, I headed off with my group to Kinokuniya to do some import manga shopping. I already bought my stuff so I hung out with some of them outside. We headed off to a spot in Second Street to watch the parade. They introduced the announcers during the parade; one of the announcers was the Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu, who got 4th place in the 2008 Vancouver Olympics. It was so much fun watching my friends freaking out when they found out that Mirai Nagasu was co-hosting the parade on our street. The first demonstration was a great procession by the Los Angeles Police Department. They drove around the street in motocycles and they were doing these great maneuvers in synch with each other. After that we had the war veterans from World War II, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It was so awesome seeing those great heroes from one of the more decorated battalions in World War II. One can’t help but look at them and feel such great pride for all the work they did in Europe and Asia. After them was a marching band, which did a great job getting the crowd excited. After that was none other than Tommy Lasorda, the Grand Marshal of the parade.

Japanese Akita, so adorable
One of my favorite groups in the parade was Akiho: Japanese Akita Club, they walked around the crowds with those adorable dogs. They were so fluffy and so friendly, I love Akitas. Just a little bit of trivia, one of the most famous dogs in history was an Akita Inu. The story of Hachiko is well known in Japan, he always met his master in front of the Shibuya station. His master died at work, and Hachiko kept on going to the Shibuya station for 9 years waiting for his master’s return. The absolute loyalty of Hachiko brought the Japanese Akita back from the brink of extinction since he was only one of 30 living purebred Akita Inu in Japan. The dogs are renowned for their extraordinary intelligence and loyalty. As you can see with the picture, they are also adorable dogs.

After the Akita club walked by, there was a 30 minute lull in the parade. After some silence one of the hosts mentioned that there was a little problem with rowdy horses on First Street and it delayed the parade. The first group arrived, and it was a group of traditional Japanese dancers from the Bando Mitsuhiro Kai. In the following float were the Japanese princesses from other cities, looking very beautiful. The parade was a great experience, and I will definitely try to make it next year. I went to Nisei Week last year, but I did not attend the parade.

Nisei Week was a great experience; it was a mixture of the old and new. It was a celebration of the Japanese-Americans living in the USA. Seeing all the cosplayers there was awesome since it was many of the same faces from Anime Expo. It almost felt like being at a small anime convention. There was lots of great food and performances. The parade was a great experience that showcased the rich culture of Japanese living in America. As one of the oldest running events, it shows that you can mix the old and the new and that they can be together in perfect harmony.

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