2023/8/20: Cancelled: Nisei Week Ondo & Closing Ceremony to be held Aug 20: Bando Hirohichiro, 2023 Nisei Week choreographer to lead “Maneki Neko” and “WE ARE” dances

Bando Hirohichiro (Cultural News Photo)

As tradition goes, the nine-day Nisei Week festival will conclude with the Ondo and Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 20. The public is welcome to come enjoy the live entertainment and participate in the Ondo “traditional Japanese street dancing”, followed by the Closing Ceremony. This event will begin at 4:30 p.m. and is held on 1st Street, between San Pedro Street and Central Avenue.

The 2023 Nisei Week choreographer is Bandō Hirohichirō, who was born and raised in Southern California. He will make history as the first male official choreographer of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

Hirohichirō started his Nihon Buyō (Japanese Classical dance) training at the age of three from the Bandō School of Japanese Classical dance. As a young performer, Hirohichirō traveled throughout the United States, introducing Nihon buyō at various matsuri, or Japanese festivals, and other multicultural events. At the age of seventeen, Hirohichirō attained his natori (Master’s degree) from the ninth headmaster and Kabuki actor, Bandō Mitsugorō. He was awarded the name of Bandō Hiroshichirō. At the age of twenty-six, Hirohichirō was awarded his shihan (professor’s degree) from Bandō Mitsugorō X.

Hirohichirō was accepted to one of the 2 Kabuki schools in Japan – Shochiku Kamigata Kabuki Jyūku in Osaka. The school was a two-year training program for future Kansai Kabuki actors. Hirohichirō was trained in sado (tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arrangement), koto, shamisen, narimono (percussion), wasai (sewing), Japanese history, rakugo (Japanese traditional comedy telling), Tokiwazu taught by the late National Living Treasure Tokiwazu Ichihadaiyu, Gidayū, Nagauta, shodo, Nihon buyō, etc. After the two years, Hirohichirō graduated first in his class, being the first non-Japanese citizen to be accepted into the school.

Upon graduation, Hirohichirō was accepted to be the youngest member of the Chikamatsu-za Troop, and was apprenticed to the late National Living Treasure Sakata Tōjūrō IV. He became the first non-Japanese citizen to be accepted into the professional ranks of Kabuki in the theater’s history. Tōjūrō award him with the name of Nakamura Gankyō (the “gan” from Ganjiro, and “kyō” from Kyoto). As a professional Kabuki actor, Gankyō has performed in all of the major Kabuki theaters throughout Japan. He has traveled internationally to England, China, Korea, India and the United States. He has held work shops, demonstrations, and lectures, and also accompanied his master Tōjūrō on various performances in those countries.

While working in both the television and film industry, his recent film credit includes the Netflix film Kate, he was awarded his Ph.D. in Japanese literature from UCLA in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and was chosen as a Fulbright Scholar for 2013-2015 as a Researching scholar at Waseda University and Tokyo University.  Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at California State University San Bernardino.  Hirohichirō has lectured at events sponsored by the Embassy of Japan Washington D.C., as well as consulting on theater productions, most recently Signature Theatre’s Pacific Overtures, while also conducting university theater workshops promoting non-Western techniques and body movements.  In addition to his academic endeavors, under his group Bandō Ryū: Kyō no Kai, he teaches Japanese Classical dance throughout California and the East Coast.