2010 / Hidden Legacy: A tribute to teachers of Japanese arts in the war time, Apr 24


Hidden Legacy, a tribute to teachers of Japanese traditional arts in the world war II time War Relocation Authority camps in the United States, will be an historic event, presenting 7 living artists ranging in age from 70s to their 90s who taught or learned Japanese arts in these camps.

It will feature an entertaining and informative program of traditional performances and dialogue with the artists about their experiences in the camps.

This extraordinary event will be held on Saturday, April 24th at the Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, at 3pm.

The artists who will participate in this event of performance and discussion, are:

1. Bando Mitsusa – Tule Lake, CA, classical Japanese dance

2. Kineya Jyorokusho – Gila River, AZ, nagauta shamisen music; also taught koto and odori in camp

3. Hokunin Kyokuto Kimura, aka Molly Kimura – Tule Lake, CA, biwa music, ikenobo, tea ceremony, Japanese language, Buddhist studies

4. Kayoko Wakita – Manzanar, CA, koto and shamisen music, also representing her parents Baido Wakita (shakuhachi) and Nobue Wakita (koto and shamisen)

5. Hanayagi Reimichi, aka Reiko Iwanaga – Amache, CO, obon odori dance, also representing Rev. Yoshio Iwanaga, Poston, AZ camp

6. Yukino Harada – Amache, CO, Japanese classical dance; now lives in L.A. area.

7. Fujima Rieyuki, aka Yuki Sato Lee – Minidoka, ID, Japanese classical dance, also representing her mother, Nishikawa Kikuharu

Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto, a teacher and performer on the Japanese koto who has been conducting her own research on the performance of traditional Japanese arts in the camps for the past two decades, became interested in the background of how her own mother learned the koto in the Topaz and Tule Lake camps where her family was interned.

Muramoto was amazed how some Japanese American artists persevered under the worst conditions, practicing their arts by sometimes making their instruments and props from whatever scraps were available.

They endured in an atmosphere of discrimination, even from some of their fellow internees who felt they should prove they were American by expressing themselves through American cultural activities, such as jazz music, swing dancing, and baseball.

Muramoto found that in conducting interviews with these artists, many new insights have been uncovered that illustrate how the practice of these art forms were not expressions of disloyalty, rather that these teachers and students were seeking to exercise their “cultural citizenship”  —  the right to express and maintain their ethnic cultural practices as part of their Japanese American identity.

Camp directors and leaders encouraged internees to become more American in their daily camp life.  With the passage of time, some of these Japanese cultural roots have become hidden.

In the mix of “assimilation”, these cultural traditions might be lost, something that rings true for many other ethnic Americans concerning their own cultural heritage.

These teachers of Japanese traditional arts helped the current generations to learn where they came from.  Some who are foreign to Japanese culture have become interested in Japanese arts because of these teachers in the United States.

The history of the Japanese American internment has been thoroughly researched, but amazingly the story of Japanese traditional arts in the camps has been largely overlooked.

Professor Lane R. Hirabayashi, the Aratani Endowed Chair at UCLA, noted, “I jumped at the opportunity to work on staging the ‘Hidden Legacy’ program in Los Angeles.  This is indeed a chapter in the history of the WRA camps that has been neglected to date.”

Muramoto feels that hearing these artists stories are so important, as they are in danger of being lost forever.  “We need to further identify, research, represent and document this history, before it is out of reach, and recognize those artists who persevered, provided entertainment and cultural awareness.”

This program is a joint endeavor by Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC), the Koyasan Buddhist Temple, and the “George and Sakaye Aratani Chair”, Asian American Studies Center, UCLA.

Event:  Hidden Legacy, tribute to teachers of Japanese traditional arts in the war time WRA camps, featuring 7 living artists of that period

When:  Saturday, April 24th

Location: Koyasan Buddhist Temple, 342 East 1st Street, Los Angeles

Time:   3pm Performances of classical odori (dance), biwa (5-string lute –like instrument), nagauta shamisen (3-stringed instrument), koto (zither), and Obon Odori (dance to honor the dead)

4pm  Discussion with the featured artists, with guest commentator Professor Jere Takahashi, Director, Multicultural Student Development Coordinator, UC Berkeley

Suggested donation:  $20/general, $15 seniors and students w/ID

For information and reservations:  213/628-2725 ext.133, or email Gavin Kelley at Kelley@jaccc.org.