Enduring Grace


GENERATIONS OF EXCELLENCE: Madame Kansuma with her daughter, Miyako Tachibana (right), and granddaughter, Miwa. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)


By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

Madame Fujima Kansuma is seated in her studio on the fourth floor of the JACCC in Little Tokyo. Two young girls in bright kimono bow deeply to Osho-san as they enter the room, and again before they start their practice.

With her daughter Miyako Tachibana by her side, Kansuma guides Momoka Kato and Kami Nobuyuki through their movements; starting with how to open their Japanese fans and then flip them quickly, catching the fans in midair.

“Open your fan. Don’t drop it,” she says.

“Oh, she did it!” she exclaims, clapping her hands together. Through every turn, tilt of the head, and gesture, she is there to guide her students, calling out movements and cues, often dancing along in her chair as her dancers perform. Tachibana is there as well, turning on the cassette tape and gently coaching the girls as they twirl and open bright wooden parasols.

Momoka and Kami do their best — just as generations of dancers have — under the watchful eye of Fujima Kansuma.

To hear her dancers speak of Osho-san is to hear a reverence for all that she has accomplished and all she has taught them.

“After all these years, I’m still in awe of every program she does,” said Ann Yoshihara, who has been a student of Madame Kansuma for 60 years and performs under the professional name Fujima Kansumi. “I know exactly what’s going on, I know what everyone’s going to wear. I know every dance, but when it comes showtime, I think, ‘Wow.’”