Madame Fujima Kansuma and Miyako Tachibana. (Photo by Courtney Mariko)

The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center invites the public to join a free virtual event to celebrate new beginnings that will be broadcast on Jan. 1, 2023, at 2 p.m. via www.JACCC.org.

Hirokazu Kosaka, JACCC’s master artist in residence, shot the first “Kotohajime” arrow In 1983. The event has grown to become the JACCC’s signature New Year’s celebration. Literally meaning “the beginning of things,” Kotohajime will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with the theme Hatsu-U or “First Hare.”

Rabbits are one of the animals Japanese are most familiar with. In Japan, rabbits are known for fertility and productivity, represent fortune, luck, and cleverness, and are also messengers for gods.

This year, JACCC will cooperate with internationally acclaimed violinist Ken Aiso, pianist Valeria Morgovskaya, kimono organization Nadeshikokai, the Honorable Fujima Kansuma, and dancers from the Colburn School.

Hirokazu Kosaka leads Los Angeles Kyudo Kai in a dramatic archery demonstration for Kotohajime. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Mariko)

Ken Aiso is an internationally acclaimed violinist who has performed worldwide as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London, studying with Erich Gruenberg. He has been invited to renowned music festivals in the U.K., France, Sweden, Switzerland, India, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.

Equally at home with modern and period instruments, Aiso has appeared as principal violinist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the London Philharmonic. He is a laureate of the Long-Thibaud International Competition (Paris) and the International Music Competition of Japan. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy of Music in London and received the Shimousa Kan-ichi Music Award.

Born in Tokyo, Aiso currently serves as professor of violin and viola/director of string ensemble at Loyola Marymount University, and adjunct faculty at La Sierra University. His belief in sound as a healing medium has led him to extend his outreach into many hospitals, schools, senior residences, and institutions for children with special needs.

Valeria Morgovskaya, pianist, graduated from the Kiev State Conservatory. Since her immigration to the U.S. in 1990, she has been in high demand as an accompanist and has been an official accompanist to festivals and courses such as the Piatigorsky Cello Seminar and Beverley Hills Music Festival. She has performed throughout the U.S., Germany, Japan, Ukraine, and Georgia, and has been heard on numerous live radio broadcasts. She has provided accompaniment for many national and international competitions and was an official accompanist at the Schoenfeld International String Competition in Hong Kong (2013) and Harbin (2014).

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Morgovskaya is currently staff accompanist at Loyola Marymount University and UCLA, and has been engaged in that capacity at USC, Cal State University Long Beach, the Colburn School, the Montecito International Music Festival, the Academy of the West and Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts.

Fujima Kansuma is no ordinary figure. Surmounting a series of challenges and discouragements, her long career reflects extraordinary focus and commitment to her art. Born Sumako Hamaguchi in San Francisco in 1918, she aspired to being a kabuki dancer from a very early age. She began her training in the U.S. when she was nine years old but moved to Japan after high school to study with the renowned kabuki dancer Onoe Kikugoro VI. She immersed herself in the study of Japanese culture and arts, learning to play kabuki theatre instruments such as the shamisen and narimono.

In 1938, she received her natori or professional certification, and was given the professional name of Fujima Kansuma from the foremost choreographer of kabuki dance, Fujima Kanjuro VI. Upon her return to the states, Kansuma established her first studio in her father’s Los Angeles hotel. When the U.S. entered World War II, she and her family, along with 110,000 other West Coast Japanese Americans were forced into War Relocation Authority concentration camps.

Sent to Rohwer in Arkansas, Kansuma remarkably continued her dance career, performing and teaching in several of the other camps. Her Rohwer performance in the role of Tange Sazen, a samurai severely disabled in battle, is legendary among those who were in attendance, providing, as it did, a glimpse of hope, perseverance, and beauty during a distressing time. 

When the war ended, Fujima Kansuma returned to Los Angeles and reopened her studio. Over the years, she has taught several generations of students not just a repertoire of dances, but an entire complex of skills and sensitivities including the etiquette of Japanese traditional arts.   She also developed her own professional troupe, Fujima Kansuma Kai, who have performed at such venues as the Hollywood Bowl, Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Music Center, Pageant of the Masters, and numerous Hollywood movies.

Today at 104, she continues to teach her beloved students, 50 of whom have received their natori or professional certification, striving to continue her legacy. 

She is the recipient of the Order of the Precious Crown, Apricot from the Japanese government, and the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Colburn School was established in 1950 as a preparatory arm of the USC Thornton School of Music. It was originally located across the street from the Shrine Auditorium, in a warehouse that had been converted into extra USC practice rooms, rehearsal halls, and dance studios. It later broadened its mission and changed its name to the Community School of Performing Arts. In 1980, it finalized its split with USC and branched out on its own.

In 1985, the school received a significant endowment from Richard D. Colburn and was subsequently renamed in his honor. The school moved from its original location near the USC campus to its current location in Downtown Los Angeles in 1998. Five years later, the Colburn Conservatory of Music was established to provide tertiary music education with a unique all-scholarship model. In 2010, the school opened the Colburn Music Academy, a highly selective program designed for young pre-collegiate musicians.

In 2014, the Colburn Dance Academy was launched as the pre-professional ballet program of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute (TZDI). The Early Dance, Children’s Dance, Young Adult Dance and Adult Dance Programs at Colburn are all part of the TZDI, which also includes the Dance Academy, a rigorous ballet training program for young people ages 14–18. Led by Dean Silas Farley and Associate Dean Darleen Callaghan, TZDI is dedicated to developing the individual gifts, talents and interests of each of its students.

Nadeshikokai, Japanese Culture and Traditions, Inc., is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization established in 2011 by Takako Sasaki to promote and preserve Japanese culture and traditions. They strive to honor and serve the communities of culturally diverse groups in the greater Los Angeles area. Their members and volunteers participate in events and perform various functions whose purpose is to promote and transmit Japanese culture, specifically kimono culture, to the community as well as to the next generation.

Sasaki organized the first Coming-of-Age Ceremony in 2013, the first ever held in the Los Angeles area. It is a long-held tradition in Japan that celebrates everyone who reaches 20 years old. The ceremony has been held annually since then and the 2023 ceremony will be its 10th anniversary. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the style of celebration was altered to accommodate the needs and requirements of the community in 2021.

Hirokazu Kosaka leads Los Angeles Kyudo Kai to perform the 40th annual Kotohajime at Koyasan Temple. The group is part of the Los Angeles Kyudo Kai archery group founded in 1916 in Little Tokyo, whose archery range was at the present-day Los Angeles police station. In 2023, the group will celebrate their 106th anniversary.

Dating back to the 11th century, archery has been used as an art of purification in ceremonies within the Imperial Court of Japan, Buddhist temples, and shrines. To accomplish a perfect shot, one must have immediate action without any intervening thoughts. The Los Angeles Kyudo Kai regularly meets at the Angeles Gate Dojo in San Pedro.

The 40th annual Kotohajime program is supported in part by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

Founded in 1972, JACCCis one of the largest ethnic arts and cultural centers of its kind in the U.S. It weaves Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture into the fabric of our communities. JACCC remains firmly rooted in Little Tokyo, providing a vital place to build connections between people and cultures, locally and internationally. Through inclusive programs and authentic experiences, it continues traditions and nurtures the next generation of innovative artists, culture-bearers, and thinkers.

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