Turning Back Time


Kineya Jyo Rokusho leads a performance of “Echigo Jishi” Saturday at Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, during “Hidden Legacy,” a tribute to the teachers of Japanese arts in the War Relocation Centers. Madame Kineya, who in addition to her other accomplishments appeared in “The King and I,” taught buyo, nagauta shamisen and koto at Gila River. (TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO)



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.

Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto leads koto students in “Sakura Henso Kyoku” (Variations on Sakura). The performance was the end result of two decades of research by Muramoto into the legacy of the arts teachers. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

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.

Fujima Rieyuki (Yuki Sato Lee) dances “Hakusen no” (The White Fan). Madame Rieyuki's mother Nishikawa Kikuharu taught buyo and nagauta shamisen in Minidoka. Madame Fujima danced in honor of her mother.

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.


1 Comment

Leave A Reply