December 18, 2016

The Tucson Japanese Festival is Coming!


Tucson Japanese Festival celebrating the New Year, Japanese style -- coming up on Jan. 14, 2017 at Pima Community College downtown campus, 1255 N. Stone Avenue, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Featuring mochi (rice) pounding, taiko drumming, performances, food, games, ikebana, other Japanese cultural activities.

 $5 adults, free for children under 5 years.  

Sponsored by Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition (, Odaiko Sonora and Yume Japanese Gardens of  Tucson. 


I'll be playing taiko, so see you there!
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December 11, 2016

All Souls Procession in Yukata- with the Fox Mask Hat

Hi Everyone
Sorry this is late and I haven't been posting hardly at all lately! Thanksgiving is over now, so there is no excuse!
The last kimono event I was involved in was the All Souls Procession, a Tucson tradition for 27 years. As you probably have read before, my taiko group processes each year with a drum behind the urn- we are one of the Spirit Groups and bring in the Japanese tradition of "Bon Odori Festival" into the this event and we even have our own Obon dance called Tucson Ondo we do in the procession. This year, we also sang an Ainu chant during the procession about a wolf running after a deer in the woods. It sounded very Native-American.
Since the theme of the procession was "the Hunter and the Hunted", we decided on using a kitsune (fox) image for make-up or as a costume element I found a fabulous DYI fox mask on, folded it, painted it and put it on my Japanese hat.

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The Wintercroft fox mask. I used cards-stock since that's what I already had. 
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The painted mask affixed to the hat. I used millinery netting around the hat to hold photos. 
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Haiku by Issa Kobayashi was used on the photos and the items I placed in the urn.
I coordinated the hat with a dance yukata and wonderful red hakata obi. I'm wearing tabi sox and regular flip-flops in the photo since I hadn't changed into my jika tabi yet. The red stuff on the sides of my head (under the hat) is leftover from another hat project- it's wired chenille, kind of like huge pipe cleaners. It was in case it became windy and I needed to tie the hat onto my head! Plus it was soft and furry and looked really cool.

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Here is the crowd waiting for the procession to start- the big metal polygon is actually the urn. It is pulled along the procession route and then hoisted in the air on a crane at the end of the ritual and lit on fire. It is filled with combustible items: prayers hastily written on paper, memorial items including ashes of loved ones, photos, bits of cloth, poems, pet toys, drawings, wishes and dreams.
You can see our taiko on the cart behind it. Right in the center, you can see a figure with a long blond wig. That is our taiko group's creative director about to do Ondeko or Demon Drum Dance. We had a black demon and a white/red demon do the dance to launch the procession and at the end of the procession.
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Taiko and Urn

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The Black Demon
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The White Demon
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A very fierce White Demon!

The Demons dancing at the Columbarium.   This is the end point of the procession. This is where the urn waits until it moves onto the stage to complete the ritual. Spirit Groups, musicians, dancers, acrobats, color and projected video and take the stage while musical guest artist SORNE provided a moving and mystical soundscape.

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Crane taking the urn up. 
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The urn being lit on fire. 
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The urn burning. 
The urn is hoisted on the crane, set on fire and then burns. SORNE continues while the event winds down. This was a very special procession this year since a new friend of mine came with me and experienced the event for the first time. I taught her the Tucson Ondo dance, the Ainu chant, and loaned her a happi coat to wear so she would fit in with our group. She carried a photo of her mom with her. She said the event was very moving and respectful and the music was beautiful. I also celebrated the lives of four people I will miss: my brother and three of my friends. Some of my brother's ashes went into the urn. I think he enjoyed the show.


hito satte mandô kiete shika no koe

people depart

ten thousand lanterns dying...
cry of a deer

 -Issa Kobayashi

October 28, 2016

All Souls Procession Update- The Hunter and the Hunted

A quick update in words and pictures- mostly just teasers!
Have no idea what I'm writing about? It's this event that my taiko group is involved in every year. 

My costume this year involves this hat-
Pilgrims hat from Japan

Kitsune (fox) mask

Plus haiku by Kobayashi Issa, this year's finale theme of the Hunter and the Hunted, kitsune masks, visiting taiko players, an Oni (Japanese demon) dancer, and new chant our group is doing in-between dancing- it's an Ainu folk song about a wolf and deer running in the woods. The whole event is going to be amazing and beautiful. 
More updates soon,

October 6, 2016

Autumn Kimono Season Has Started!!

It's very  late, I'm lazy, so I'm sharing Odaiko Sonora's enewsletter. Kimono season has started for 2016!
I will be playing taiko with my group at Tucson Meet Yourself  festival this Saturday (Highlighted yellow part below) and dressing myself and others in yukata for the show! Look for me on stage during the obon dance demo right after our taiko performance- I'll be in yukata. Photos soon!

From left: Lantern-making Happy Hours commence on Oct. 6 for the 
2016 All Souls Procession; our Community Group prepares for Odaiko Sonora's 15th year at 
Tucson Meet Yourself, Sat., Oct. 8 at 2:00pmat which; … 
Sahuaro High School marching band members will debut their fall program, which includes taiko!

Awake the Season
Odaiko Sonora is gearing up for a big fall! This Thursday, Oct. 6 we
 launch All Souls Procession season activities with our first
 Lantern-making Happy Hour, 5:30-7:30pm, at Takamatsu, 
5532 E. Speedway. Then, this weekend, Sat., Oct. 8, the 
entire group — 22 players strong — performs at Tucson Meet
 Yourself. Our set begins at 2:00pm on the Church Street stage. 
Special appearance by the Sahuaro High School marching band, 
who we worked with this summer, performing two sections of 
Fantasy on a Japanese Folk Song, by Samuel R. Hazo. Then,
from 3:00–3:45pm, we'll lead a very special presentation in
conjunction with the Southern AZ Japanese Cultural Coalition. 
in this session, you'll learn about the Japanese tradition of obon,
learn several dances and get to participate in a mini-obon festival!
After you see us, we think you may want to learn to play taiko! 
Our next All Ages Recreational Taiko beginners' class starts 
Oct. 22 and continues every Saturday from 2:30–4:30pm through Nov. 19.

Join us this fall
Thurs., Oct. 6, 5:30–7:30pm: Memorial Lantern-making Happy Hour. 
All Souls Procession season activities begin with our first Lantern-making
 Happy Hour. Join us to make a Japanese toronagashi-style lantern to 
commemorate loved ones. The lanterns will be carried in the All Souls 
Procession on Nov. 6. All materials provided but you are welcome to bring
 (safely flammable) descorations of your own that can be added to the 
paper covers. Suggested donation to ASP. Lantern-making continues 
every Thursday in October. Takamatsu, 5532 E. Speedway.

Sat., Oct. 8, 2:00–3:45pm: Tucson Meet Yourself. 
See us at the Church St. stage. Performance at 2:00pm, mini-obon festival 
at 3:00–3:45pm. Our set will include a variety of traditional and original taiko 
compositions, including a new song by Performing
 Ensemble member Nicole Stansbury.

Wed. Oct. 19, 5:3 pm and Sat., Oct. 22, 12:30pm: ASP Obon
Learn the All Souls Procession dance and chant, then join us on
 Nov. 6 as we walk. The dance is the same as last year's, but we
 have a new chant for this year’s theme of The Hunter and the 
Hunted. Rhythm Industry Performance Factory, 1013 S. Tyndall.

Saturdays, Oct. 22–Nov. 192:30–4:30pm.
Wear comfortable clothes you can move freely in and bring a water bottle.
 We take care of the rest! Try the first class free. If you like it, sign up for
 the 5-week session. Sign up on our website via 
Paypal, email or call (520) 481-8003. Rhythm 
Industry Performance Factory, 1013 S. Tyndall.

Sun., Nov. 6: All Souls Procession
Arigato gozaimasu!

August 23, 2016

Yes, It's Almost Kimono Season!

Hi everyone
It's been a long time- in fact- it was in March last time I posted anything worthy! Many things have happened since then though.
Summer is too hot for kimono for where I live in Arizona, so I don't post much in the summer, but it's winding down and the kimono-wearing events are starting to heat up! Two events that are note-worthy so far: at our local folk arts and food festival, Tucson Meet Yourself- my taiko group is performing on Saturday, October 8th and I will be doing some kind of kimono demonstration. Not sure what yet, but it's sure to be connected to Obon some how since our own Tucson Ondo dance will be taught at the event.
Next up is the All Souls Procession- another event that involves taiko and dance and of course yukata and kimono.
Right after the last post I made on this blog, I lost a close family member and then ten days later, a work colleague and friend passed away unexpectedly. It was pretty devastating but with All Souls coming up in November, I have an outlet for the grief. I'm working on a costume-y yukata type wearable art project that involves photos and mementos and I will be revealing bit of my project here in process! I will not be wearing mofuku, the traditional mourning kimono, but something more life-affirming and colorful.  Right now, I have a yukata that someone gave me that I may dye and or paint to customize it- other than that, I don't have enough to show you yet- mostly a few sketches and ideas.
So stay tuned more!

April 7, 2016

TAO Concert Ensemble- pink and black

On March 6, a big group of us went to see TAO perform at the Fox Theater in Tucson. 
The weather was supposed to be unseasonably warm, so I picked out a black sha kimono to go with my new pink ro summer fukuro obi with the gold and silver nadeshinko (dianthus). The weather turned out to be overcast and really nice- perfect kimono weather. 

I was running a little late and have never tied this obi before, so after struggling to make a double otaiko musubi, I gave up and tied a basic bunko musubi. My rule is to always practice with a new obi before wearing it but I wasn't able to this time.

The fun part was I was the only one at the whole show in kimono, so I stood out. Afterwards, I shook hands with one of the TAO members during the lobby meet and greet and he was very impressed with my outfit. Afterwards, we went to lunch at Penca and then walked around downtown for a while. The spring flowers were blooming and the weather was lovely- a perfect day in the desert. 

I bought the new pink obi at Phoenix Matsuri- in fact, I was super lucky since I found 4 summer obi. I'll post photos of them soon as well as a few photos of my weekend of taiko and yukata in Phoenix!
More photos soon,

February 26, 2016

AZ MATSURI IS this weekend!!

Woohoo! Matsuri in Phoenix is tomorrow and Sunday!
My taiko group is playing on the ASU stage at 11:00am Saturday, so I will be wearing a happi coat all day and I will be in kimono or yukata on Sunday. It is supposed to be 88 degrees F in Phoenix both days, so I'm bringing a back-up yukata in case my black sha kimono is going to be too hot.
This year will be the 32nd anniversary and this year's theme is momotaro, the Peach-boy.
Hope to see you there!

Here are some photos from past Matsuri...

January 6, 2016

Finally- A couple Photos from the All Souls Procession November 2015

One the sun, one in the shade- just before I went out. My make-up is minimal, as I like it. The photo around my neck is of Lula, our dear kitty we lost in June; now I can carry her with me in the Procession. I created a special paper packet of some of her ashes, catnip, rosemary (for remembrance), and some sacred earth from the shrine at Chimayo, NM to place in the urn. 
I'm wearing tennis shoes since I have to walk and stand for several hours- it's entirely worth it. No turning back until after the burning of the urn! 

For more information about the unique Tucson All Souls Procession, click here. 
Here are some videos about Procession, including the history of the event, courtesy of ]

January 3, 2016

2016 Tucson Mochitsuki- January 9, 2016

Celebrate Japanese New Year’s at 2016 Tucson Mochitsuki

The Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition invites the
 Tucson Community to the 3rd Annual Mochitsuki. 
Learn about Japanese New Year’s rice pounding tradition
on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at Pima Community 
College Downtown campus,
1255 N. Stone Ave. at NW corner of Stone and Speedway. 
11 AM to 3 PM. $5 adults & children under 5 free. 
Attendees should use the west-side parking lots.

The purpose is to bring together persons interested in Japanese
 culture and to encourage the community-building spirit of 
making mochi (rice cakes) as a celebration of the New Year.
There will be taiko drum performances by Odaiko Sonora, 
mochi rice pounding demonstrations,  games & prizes, 
free mochi samples, along with other Japanese cultural activities 
such as Anime, calligraphy, martial arts, kyudo (archery), 
singing, authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony, ikebana,and 
exhibitions from several Pima CC student groups.
Please come and join us for a fun day. 

For further details, see SAJCC website and Tucson
 Mochitsuki Facebook page,  
Phone contact: 520-744 -7250, email 
 This event is also sponsored by Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson