2023/8/19: Focusing Folk Performing Arts as Tool of Developing Relationships, Japanese Professor in Business in Los Angeles Leads Kawachi Ondo Japanese Folk Dance Team to Chicago Festival

Dr. Shinichi Hirokawa performed as a lead singer of Team Kawachi Ondo. Photo by Tomo Sawairi.

Los Angeles’ Team Kawachi Ondo invited to Chicago festival

For celebrating the 50th anniversary of the city of Chicago and the city of Osaka sister-city relationship, the Japan Festival Chicago 2023 took place on Aug. 19 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The event organizer Chicago Japanese American Council (CJAC) invited Team Kawachi Ondo led by Dr. Shinichi Hirokawa, Assistant Professor of Westcliff University in Irvine, from Los Angeles to perform “Kawachi Ondo” dance with their live music.

Kawachi Ondo is one of the Japanese traditional folk music and a requiem song to pay tribute to ancestors and spirits. It is an improvisation of performing arts by the common people for 400 years.  Afterwards from the Meiji era, many new lyrics were born with associating social events from newspaper articles for example. The lead singer creates ad-lib lyrics on the stage, and it is common to a sing and dances to perform for from 30 minutes to an hour in the live events,

The Kawachi region is located down in the south-eastern corner of Osaka prefecture in Japan, relatively close to the Kansai Airport (KIX).

In the Japan Festival Chicago, local volunteer dancers, Okinawa Kenjinkai (prefectural association), Mikoren (Awa Dance group), and the executive committee members of the festival joined the Kawachi Ondo in addition to the regular audiences who participated in Kawachi Ondo dance.

Team Kawachi Ondo in Los Angeles started performing dance and music in 2018 as a stage event within the organization of Kansai Club, Inc. (501(c)(3) organization), a prefectural association in Los Angeles, and Dr. Hirokawa joined the team as an Ondo Tori, or a lead singer, in 2019.

Dr. Hirokawa was born in the city of Niigata, which is the most populous city on the west coast of the mainland of Japan, then moved to Tokyo area for entering a university followed by working there as a sales engineer of Swedish company. The company allowed him to relocate to Osaka where he discovered that the Osaka culture was unique to any other areas he visited in Japan. Osaka is the heart of entertainment, and the locals are fun-having people from their friendly, outgoing, and humorous characteristics.

Since he came to the U.S. in 2002, he earned MBA in project management and DBA in International Business and published two academic papers. He also contributed to a Japanese company which was developing the U.S. market. He is currently teaching at Westcliff University in Irvine, conducting a consulting business, and serving for non-profit organizations.

Dr. Hirokawa believes that the Kawachi Ondo is one of the best live music to entertain the people both dancers and the audience of the live events. He also realizes that this mechanism of Japanese culture that works here in the U.S.

Team Kawachi Ondo has performed Japanese folk dance and music at the Japan Day event at major baseball team Los Angeles Angels in 2019, the New Year Celebration of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California (JCCSC) in 2020, 2022, and 2023 as well as participating in community events to introduce and promote Japanese folk dance and music.

Their upcoming performances for this year are at the Taste of Japan in Phoenix, Arizona, on Oct. 7, and the Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California (JPASC) Charity Talent Show on Oct. 8 at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles.

Dr. Hirokawa is contributing to the Nikkei, or the Japanese American, community by performing Kawachi Ondo because he believes that it eventually builds the relationship between the U.S. and Japan by strengthening bonds with musicians, harmonizing with dancers, and having an engagement with the audience, and all the community stakeholders.

Dr. Hirokawa focuses on Kawachi Ondo and other Japanese folk dance and music as tools in introducing and disseminating the Japanese traditional culture in the U.S.