OBITUARY: Kumiko Tanaka, Artist and ‘Backbone’ of S.F. Taiko Dojo

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Above and below: Example of Kumiko Tanaka’s taiko-inspired artworks.

SAN FRANCISCO — Kumiko Tanaka, artist and wife of San Francisco Taiko Dojo founder Seiichi Tanaka, died on May 24 at the age of 80.

San Francisco Taiko Dojo posted the following message on Facebook on Sept. 2: “It is with much sadness that we share with you that on May 24, Kumiko-san, Sensei’s wife and Ryuma-san’s mother, peacefully passed away.

“One of the backbones of San Francisco Taiko Dojo, Kumiko-san’s influence and impact can be seen in many areas of dojo, such as the artwork for many of our posters and most recently our newest maroon happi coats. In addition, the qigong movements that have become a fundamental element of Taiko Dojo’s style were largely influenced by Kumiko-san’s love for qigong and taichi.

“Loved by Taiko Dojo members and the greater San Francisco Japanese community, she is greatly missed.”

Rosalie Alfonso and Ka’ala Carmack posted the following on an online memorial: “As time passes and familiar faces in Nihonmachi fade into the sunset, we could still depend on seeing Kumiko at our visits to the Taiko Showroom, passing in the street or meeting up on the 22 Fillmore on her way to the studio early in the mornings.

“From the birth of her son Ryuma to the 50th anniversary of the Taiko Dojo, Kumiko was always that bright light, with her infectious smile and all-knowing giggle that kept me enthusiastic about taiko, martial arts and printmaking. She was always sincerely concerned about the details of our health and well-being. Kumiko, we will miss your presence and will remain energized by your spirit. Thank you for being a part of our family.”

Sally Sexton posted, “Kumiko was a lovely, generous woman. Multi-faceted, she gave much to her family, her art, the taiko community and the tai chi community.

“I have many fond memories of Kumiko — and a shelf of her books!! When she learned I was serious about tai chi and qigong, Kumiko showered books on me, including many now out-of-print jewels on ‘8 Brocade’; ‘Taiji Bang’; ‘Seated Qigong for Meditation,’ etc.

“I cannot think of the Buchanan YMCA without Kumiko.

“I will miss her beautiful smile, quick laugh and her ponytail!

“My sincere condolences to her family.”

In conjunction with an exhibit of her works in 2015, the Graphic Arts Workshop in San Francisco said, “At times deeply serious, at times brimming with a zen sense of fun, Kumiko Tanaka’s evocative printmaking style is inspired by her love of tai chi and the balance and perfection of the whole through the union of opposites: yin and yang, earth and sky, man and nature. Works in this exhibit emphasize the perpetually evolving studio practices that are integral to the balance of Tanaka’s own life.

“Kumiko Tanaka has been part of San Francisco’s community of artists since 1960, when she moved from Watsonville to the city to complete her graduate work in photography and printmaking at San Francisco State University. Her work is on permanent display at the taiko showroom on the bridge at Japantown. She is beloved by the taiko community for her visual expression of the power and exhilaration of taiko drumming, interpretations which arise from her own deep understanding of taiko.”

No public services are scheduled at this time.

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