Booth offers glimpse of Japan

A group of Japanese women living in Seymour have begun preparing to highlight their talents and culture during the annual Oktoberfest next week.

Sakura Helping Hands has spent the past year making craft and gift items using traditional Japanese methods such as origami.

The 32-member group will sell those items in the arts and crafts area during the festival, which starts Thursday and runs through Oct. 3. Their booth is located at Chestnut and Third streets near city hall and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. all three days of the festival.

This marks the 43rd anniversary of the Oktoberfest, which transforms downtown Seymour into a street carnival complete with rides, games, entertainment, contests, crafts, a beer garden and lots of food.

Around 1,600 handmade items will be available, including origami ornaments, traditional Japanese gifts, seasonal fabric crafts and more, Yoko Murayama said. Prices range from $1 to $25.

Murayama said this is the 23rd year for Sakura Helping Hands to have a booth at the festival.

“We got it started because we wanted to connect with people in Seymour and contribute to the community,” she said. “We enjoy the opportunity to share our traditional handmade crafts with our friends and neighbors in and around Seymour.”

Her favorite items to make are paper balls and fabric flowers, which she said are traditional items in Japan.

Members of Sakura Helping Hands are the wives of Japanese men who are here working at local industries such as Aisin and Seymour Tubing.

“We just want to share our culture with our community,” she said.

Each year, proceeds from the group’s booth are donated to nonprofit organizations in the community, such as Seymour Community Schools, Jackson County Public Library, Read Jackson County, Schneck Medical Center and Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.

“We raise about $2,000,” Murayama said.

The booth is a popular stop for many festivalgoers, many of whom come every year to purchase something different.

“We are so excited about taking part in the Oktoberfest because many people are interested in Japanese culture,” she said.

Murayama said that by having the booth they are able to practice speaking English and interacting with others.

“We’re very happy that we are able to live in Seymour and learn about American culture,” she said. “The Seymour community has been very warm and welcoming.”

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What: Sakura Helping Hands annual craft booth at the Seymour Oktoberfest

Where: the corner of Chestnut and Third streets near City Hall

When: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Oct. 3

Proceeds from the booth are donated back into the community through organizations including Seymour Community Schools, Jackson County Public Library, Read Jackson County, Seymour Parks and Recreation Department and Schneck Medical Center.