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UJCC Presents -- Hidden Legacy

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United Japanese Christian Church (UJCC)

136 North Villa Avenue

Clovis, CA 93612

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HIDDEN LEGACY: Japanese Traditional Performing Arts in the World War II Internment Camps

12:30PM Pre-show

-- Performances of traditional Japanese arts by local artists, including Kiyoko Nosker (koto) and Clovis Heiwa Taiko, and more.
-- Light refreshments

1:30PM Film

-- Opening performance by koto master, Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto (filmmaker)
-- Screening
-- Q&A

Presented by United Japanese Christian Church (UJCC). Co-presented by Fresno Buddhist Church, CCDC JACL, and Central Canlifornia Nikkei Foundation.


Film Description:

“Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Performing Arts in the World War II Internment Camps” is the full title of this documentary, which uses historical footage and interviews from artists who were imprisoned to tell the story of how traditional Japanese cultural arts were maintained at a time when the War Relocation Authority (WRA) emphasized the importance of assimilation and Americanization. Various essays and studies concerning the camps have been published, but have focused on the political and legal aspects of the internment, while hardly mentioning cultural and recreational activities in the camps. When cultural and recreational activities have been documented, they have focused on American culture, such as baseball and swing music. This film is the first major presentation of the existence of traditional music, dance and drama in the camps. It is possible only because Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto-Wong has been searching, researching and collecting for over 20 years information on who these artists were. She has collected interviews, oral and visual histories, as well as artifacts from the internees and relatives of internees, including teachers, students, the performers, and the incredible artists who made instruments, costumes, and the props needed for a full performance from scraps of wood, toothbrush handles, gunny sacks, paint, and whatever they could scrape up. Her own family’s history with the camps led her to become a kotoist and teacher of the Japanese koto (13-stringed zither).

Very little is known of the existence of traditional Japanese performance arts in the camps. The artists Muramoto-Wong has interviewed are all Americans, all born here, but practiced Japanese arts before the war, during, and after the war, because they loved the art. This made them “social activists” in their own quiet way, continuing the music and dance they loved, helping others to learn and enjoy these arts, and to help draw their attention away from their surroundings, giving them pride and self-esteem. Their efforts kept Japanese cultural arts alive in our communities today.

Muramoto-Wong interviewed 30 artists in the fields of music (koto, nagauta shamisen, shakuhachi, shigin, biwa), dance (buyo, obon) and drama (kabuki) who were imprisoned at Tule Lake, Manzanar, Amache/Granada, Rohwer, Gila River, and Topaz. They interviewed Prof. Minako Waseda of Geijutsu Daigaku University of Music and Arts, and Kunitachi College of Music, both universities in Tokyo, whose research thesis, Extraordinary Circumstances, Exceptional Practices: Music in Japanese American Concentration Camps, is the only scholarly work that had been published on this subject. They also interviewed students of these arts in America, some who learned from these artists, and some who are carrying on the tradition in our communities today, and some who have taken this knowledge, and expanded creatively and artistically in various imaginative ways.

Film locations include camps at Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain; locations in Japan, such as Osaka, Kyoto, 3 Tokyo music universities (Tokyo Ongaku Daigaku, Geijutsu Daigaku, Kunitachi College of Music); Cherry Blossom Festivals in San Francisco and Cupertino; San Jose Obon Festival; Chidori Band 59th Anniversary Concert; Japanese American Museum of San Jose; dance studio of Bando Misayasu (aka Mary Arii Mah), and koto studio of Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto-Wong.

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United Japanese Christian Church (UJCC)

136 North Villa Avenue

Clovis, CA 93612

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