By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
As the curtain opened Saturday at Koyasan Buddhist Temple, it felt as if time had stopped. For one performance only, the graceful teachers of Japanese dance, biwa, nagauta shamisen and koto returned to the historic stage to celebrate their contributions to keeping the Japanese arts alive and buoying the spirits of their students in the wartime relocation centers.
A capacity crowd of more than 200 filled Koyasan for “Hidden Legacy,” a tribute to the teachers of Japanese traditional arts war relocation centers. The performers included, Bando Mitsusa, Kineya Jyorokusho, Hokunin Kyokuto Kimura (Molly Kimura), Kayoko Wakita, Hanayagi Reimichi (Reiko Iwanaga), Yukino Harada and Fujima Rieyuki.
The program started with “Echigo Jishi,” a 19th century song from the Niigata region of Japan. Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto, whose research led to the tribute, was then accompanied by Brian Mitsuhiro Wong in a performance of Kayoko Wakita’s “Conflict,” which expressed the emotions of Japanese Americans sent to concentration camps.
A display of papier mache masks created in Tule Lake showed the resourcefulness of the artists and their supporters. Costumes, wigs, stage props and even instruments were fashioned by internees using what they had. While the concert expressed a sense of loss and resilience, it also showcased the joy of music and art itself. June Kuramoto of the jazz band Hiroshima and a group of students all joined in the familiar “Sakura.” At the conclusion, the audience was encouraged to stand and dance “Obon no Uta” (Song of Obon), choreographed by Rev. Yoshio Iwanaga.