A group of Japanese women has been busy creating traditional Japanese arts, crafts and gifts for Seymour’s biggest annual event.
This year marks the 29th year for Sakura Helping Hands to be part of the Seymour Oktoberfest.
“The group was started about 30 years ago as a way to give back to the community,” Tomoko Mizusawa said.
There are about 30 women in the club, which works year-round to make handmade items to sell at the festival, Mai Torii said.
Their booth is located on Third Street near Seymour City Hall and will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
The women are the wives of expatriates who work at Japanese businesses in Seymour, including Aisin and Nippon Steel, so some are continuous members and others are new every year.
Many members start out as beginners when it comes to making arts and crafts, and most are self-taught.
Typically, the group raises between $2,500 and $3,000 during the Oktoberfest.
Proceeds benefit various causes such as Seymour Community School Corp., Jackson County Public Library, READ Jackson County, Schneck Medical Center and Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.
“We will take the money to the city of Seymour and let them decide where the money needs to go,” Mizusawa said.
This year, they will have about 1,000 items for sale and 200 different types of pieces.
The group doesn’t have a particular theme for its items or booth. The members enjoy people stopping by to see what they’ve made and learning more about Japan.
Some of the women’s favorite items to make include traditional Japanese origami paper balls and fabric flowers.
“We will have our famous origami ornaments, Kusudama, and the fabric flowers,” Mizusawa said. “We are also planning to hold a small event at our booth, writing your name in Japanese alphabet on request. The cost will be $1 per name on a postcard.”
She said there are some festivalgoers who come back each year for their favorite items, including the Kusudama, ornaments and flowers.
Kusudamas are modular origami models where multiple units are fit together to form a ball-like shape. The word “kusudama” means “medicine ball” when translated from Japanese.
The group also has made some seasonal items and décor this year, like origami wreaths and wall hangings. Plus, they will have smaller items, such as earrings, hair clips and small traditional pieces of art.
Some of the new items for this year are handmade Japanese-style wall décor, kimono wine bottle covers and owl plush.
It makes the group members feel good to know people appreciate the craftsmanship and the time that goes into creating each of the items they make.
“We like being involved in the community because some of us are here just temporarily and we don’t have a chance to get to know the local people,” Mizusawa said. “So it’s nice to have a chance to be involved at Oktoberfest and find a way to give back to the community.”
If you go
What: Sakura Helping Hands Oktoberfest arts and crafts booth
When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Where: Third Street near Seymour City Hall
Proceeds benefit various local causes, including Seymour Community School Corp., Jackson County Public Library, READ Jackson County, Schneck Medical Center and Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.