Click photo to enlarge
Michelle Riha, left, Karen Okazaki and Kazuko Muramoto, of Kazuko Muramoto Koto Studio of San Lorenzo, perform during the 57th annual Diablo Japanese American Summer Festival at the Diablo Japanese American Cultural Center in Concord, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. The event continues Sunday with Japanese foods, music, folk dancing, bonsai displays, martial arts demonstrations, children's games and more. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Three generations of Japanese Americans have for decades hosted Concord's popular Summer Festival that draws a wide Bay Area audience.

This weekend, visitors will once again feast on tempura, teriyaki, udon, sushi and gyoza, and watch specifically choreographed bon-odori folk dance performances, martial arts demonstrations and taiko drumming concerts at the event.

Each year, Concord resident Joyce Shindo looks forward to working alongside the elder members of the Diablo Japanese American Club as they meet to prepare Manju and other desserts for the Summer Festival, which is a culmination of other similar gatherings throughout the Bay Area.

"It's learning the recipes, working together, hearing their stories," says Shindo, who along with her husband, John, the festival's co-chairman, have been active in the local club since 1992.

John Shindo, a longtime volunteer in the "beef booth," looks forward to feasting on various Japanese delicacies that are part of the traditional fare that feeds festival visitors, and the large number of other volunteers that comprise the 400-plus families who are members of the club.

"It's hard to keep these traditions going," says Joyce Shindo, noting how the festival is "cultural and religious at the same time, but you don't have to be religious to participate."


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Their grown children were raised participating in the traditional Japanese dancing, attending the club's Japanese language school, and playing basketball there where she coached.

The youth who benefitted from the club's myriad programs return at festival time to give back, helping construct the various booths — for bonsai plants, ikebana flower arrangements, calligraphy, a boutique of members' handmade merchandise and food -- and to be a part of the community.

"It's good they are learning about their culture," she says.

"We needed a place to connect with our heritage," adds Brentwood resident Carolyn Fujinaga, who has been a club member for 35 years, and has chaired the bon-odori committee for the past 10 years.

The dance form with its simple fluid hand movements is a Buddhist observance, she says, "to honor and remember those who've passed."

The dancing is a treasured part of the festival experience for Fujinaga, who relishes the smiles on the participants' faces and the uplifting music.

"There's no pressure to be perfect. People do what they can and they enjoy it," she says.

The festival is the annual opportunity for the Shindos, Fujinaga and fellow members to reconnect with friends from throughout the Bay Area who make the trip each year, and also to invite the public to share their traditions.

if you go
WHAT: Japanese American
Summer Festival
WHEN: 1-9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 9; noon-8:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10
WHERE: Diablo Japanese American Club, 3165 Treat Blvd., Concord
COST: Free admission, performances, demonstrations. Traditional Japanese food for sale
TRANSPORTATION: Free parking and free shuttle at Ygnacio Valley High School, 755 Oak Grove Road, Concord
INFORMATION: Visit www.diablojaclub.com