Students celebrate New Year with Japanese flair

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Ten Japanese language students, accompanied by teachers Masa Yamaguchi and Nami Shibuya Grafia, welcomed the new year at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s New Year’s Ohana Festival.

The fun-filled event featured dozens of food and craft booths available for visitors to browse while children enjoyed rides and games. Visitors were also treated to entertainment and cultural demonstrations at the 23rd annual festival celebrating the new year, an important event in the Japanese calendar.

Grafia said, “Our students handed out information flyers and helped to guide visitors to the right place. They did an excellent job talking to visitors and answering their questions about the Japanese culture, places to visit and fun things to do during the event. The Ohana festival enabled our students to experience some of the authentic Japanese new year traditions, such as mochi pounding and martial arts demonstrations. Even though the volunteer hours were long, the students kept their beautiful smiles to greet the visitors.”

The festival is a way for the community to celebrate Hawaii’s cultural diversity.

Freshman Aiyana Arnobit said, “It was fun to volunteer because there were a lot of people who attended the event and it gave me a chance to use my Japanese skills. They also had a variety of food, such as fresh mochi, and activities and performances that taught people about Japanese culture.”