The Land of the Rising Sun illuminated New Mexico on Sunday, Sept. 22.

The New Mexico Japanese American Citizens League (NMJACL) hosted its annual Aki Matsuri (Japanese Fall Festival) at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial in Albuquerque.

For over 40 years, the annual event has celebrated Japanese culture and heritage. The founding families of the NMJACL, Nisei and Sansei (second and third generation Japanese-Americans), started the event in Albuquerque.

"The festival is an annual event sharing the Japanese culture with the community," NMJACL President Steve Togami said. "It’s our main fundraiser to try and build a Japanese Culture Center in Albuquerque."

Live demonstrations held throughout the event included sushi making demonstrations, origami folding and Ikebana flower arrangements.

The food court offered Japanese food: Participants lined up to taste the many flavors of Japan. The food included Japanese hot dogs, sushi, spam musubi and more.

The performers of the event entertained the crowd with dance, singing and martial arts. The Japanese Folk Dance Group performed a popular Bon Odori dance, where the group encouraged the audience to join in.

One of the volunteers was local U.S. Marine Kandi Sampson, who fell in love with Japanese culture while stationed in Okinawa, Japan for three years. Sampson said she heard about the event from a friend.

"I was really excited about the food, entertainment and seeing people in yukata, their traditional wear... I really enjoyed myself."

Sharon Schischilly is a freelance photographer for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @Schischillyy