Japanese Cultural Institute Carnival in Gardena, CA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

JCI Carnival Header
Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI) Carnival in Gardena, CA

My friend JustJenn and I were hanging out on Sunday and she looked at her iPhone. She said, "Oh, the JCI Carnival is this weekend."


That was my car and my scream. My car sprinted to Gardena to hit up the "carnival of my youth." I have so many childhood memories from this annual affair. The Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI) in Gardena (South Bay area of the Los Angeles region) has been going on forever. A few things have been added and changed, but so much of it remains exactly the same. And that's fantastic. The JCI offers Japanese language classes, senior activities, cultural classes and sport groups. 

JCI Carnival 4
Of course, I go for the festival foods. Chirashi sushi is my absolute favorite. It's sushi rice with a bunch of toppings. Somen salad is cold somen noodles with a dipping sauce, and the imagawayaki is a pancake filled with sweet red beans.

JCI collage 3
My peep's donut! The Okinawan Andagi or Dango is a festival favorite...just look for the long line. It is a big donut hole of goodness. I like to spend my summer visiting as many festivals as possible...all to get dangos! The Japanese American-founded Buddhist Churches in the area have annual Obon festivals and they always have dangos too. See this post for my tour of a Obon festival in 2009, and my mom's recipe for dango.

JCI carnival 2
Every JA festival has a plant and vegetable section. I believe every group has a member who owns or works at a nursery. Actually, there is a long history of Japanese American gardeners and farmers in California (check out this book). My grandfather worked in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii, farmed in Central California and then became a gardener in Los Angeles. Last year, I bought a house plant at an Obon festival at a Buddhist church...and it is still alive!! I don't know if the Buddhist priest blessed it, but now I'm buying all my house plants at these carnivals!

The youth break dancing class performed too! I'm sure one of these kids will be on my favorite show, ABDC someday!

JCI Carnival 1
Like I said, the JCI Carnival is filled with childhood memories. All these old school carnival games. They used to have a dime toss and gave away glass cups and dishes (holy smokes, I'm sure they were filled with lead and other hazards). Anyway, I loved this game and would break my piggy bank gathering dimes. One day, my folks were at my brother's soccer game in Orange County and I stayed at home. I was doing the dishes and one of these super thin glasses broke in my hand. My neighbor was a police officer so I went over to show him my cut. Remember, I'm 40 so when I was young we had rotary phones and cell phones were only on the Jetsons. My neighbor knew someone on the force in the OC and they SENT UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICERS TO THE SOCCER GAME. Yes, they walked around the field saying, "We are looking for the parents of Mary." Holy Smokes! My mom still tells me this story and how she nearly had a heart attack right there on the field. Anyway, I got 5 or 6 stitches and still have a small scar on my finger...and great memories of the JCI Carnival. And I didn't have to do the dishes for a whole month.

I hope you are enjoying your summer visiting carnivals and festivals (and of course, participating in your library's summer reading program!!). If you are in Los Angeles and want to eat some Japanese American festival food, check out the Obon schedule!
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Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I grew up in the Sacramento area and I have fond childhood memories of going to the obon and bazaar they had every August at the church.
I totally remember the dime toss and there used to be a pop the balloon game with real darts! The good ol' days!


Ana Degenaar said... [Reply to comment]

My that's one carnival I'd love to visit.

kirbie said... [Reply to comment]

The carnival looks like so much fun. And by fun, I mean the food looks delicious. Ooh, thanks for linking to the Obon schedule. It looks like it will be in SD for one day, I can't wait to check it out!

webmailaddress2 said... [Reply to comment]

The carnival looks like fun. I love the story about your youth! Police officers make any story extra entertaining.

v c said... [Reply to comment]

I was at the JCI on Sunday too! Like you, I go for the food - especially the dango! I grew up in Gardena and going to the JCI Carnival and Obon at the Gardena Buddhist Church is like entering a time machine.

Do you remember winning ashtrays at the dime pitch? Crazy!

The Food Librarian said... [Reply to comment]

@vc I can't agree more! A time machine - that perfectly describes it! And yes, I remember those ashtrays! I think the cup that yielded my stitches had a BEER logo on the glass. The good old days...lead paint and all.

Lindsey@Lindselicious said... [Reply to comment]

I cant believe I've never heard of this all my years in LA! Thanks for sharing, I hope to catch it next year!

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