2019 Ondo and Closing Ceremony. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The Nisei Week Japanese Festival is proud to finally be celebrating its 80th year from Aug. 13-21. As tradition goes, the nine day festival will conclude with the Ondo and Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 21.

The public is welcome to come enjoy the live entertainment and participate in the Ondo, traditional Japanese street dancing, followed by the Closing Ceremony. This event will begin at 4 p.m. and is held on First Street between San Pedro Street and Central Avenue.

This year’s two parade songs are “Kawachi Otoko Bushi” and “One Wish.” The public dance practice schedule can be found on NiseiWeek.org. Questions should be directed to Miles Hamada at mileshamada@yahoo.com.

The 2022 Nisei Week choreographer is Kikusue Azuma, who was born in Los Angeles. She earned a bachelor’s degree in math/computer science from UCLA, a master’s degree in computer science from USC and worked for 11 years as a software engineer, but eventually realized that teaching was her passion.

She studied Nihon buyō (Japanese classical dance) for many years under Sumako Azuma II and earned her natori (master) and shihan (instructor) degrees from the Azuma School headquarters in Tokyo. After receiving her shihan degree, she started teaching dance classes to a few students, and her classes quickly grew through word-of-mouth.

She currently teaches more than 60 students from Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties and 15 students in Kapa‘a and Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i.

She also volunteers for many community organizations, writes a monthly children’s Japanese culture column for The Hawai‘i Herald, and works as an editor and math tutor. She is married and has three children.

Over the years, Sumako, Kikusue and their students have performed both at professional venues – including the Greek Theater, Hollywood Bowl and Universal Amphitheater – and at benefit performances for community and nonprofit organizations.

While still teaching the Japanese dance classics, they broke new ground artistically, reaching out to the Sansei, Yonsei and Gosei by blending traditional Japanese dance techniques with modern influences. Unfortunately, Sumako Azuma II passed away in July 2020, but Kikusue continues her legacy. Through their efforts, the Azuma School in the U.S. continues to grow and perpetuate Japanese culture through the art of Japanese dance.

The 2022 Nisei Week Japanese Festival is a nine-day event first held in 1934 and is recognized today as one of the longest-running ethnic festivals in the U.S. This event will take place in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district from Aug. 13-21. For a calendar of events, log on to www.NiseiWeek.org, call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193 or email info@niseiweek.org. The Nisei Week office is located at the JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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