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Grand Centennial Celebration

Madame Fujima Kansuma leads a sanbon jime cheer during her 100th birthday Nov. 18 at the Aratani Theatre. (Photo by MICHAEL HELMS)

Madame Fujima Kansuma celebrated her 100th birthday in grand style on Nov. 18 with a performance of Japanese classical dance reminiscent of the famed Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo.

As she sat in the front row, the dancers of Fujima Kansuma Kai performed “Ninin Sanbaso.”

Fujima Kansujun (Junko Obi) (Photo by GWEN MURANAKA)

Performers included:

Okina: Fujima Kansusumi (Dr. Sumi Kawaratani)

Sanbaso: Fujima Kansujun (Junko Obi)

Senzai: Fujima Kansuaya (Angie Toyota)

Attendants: Shizuko Obi (Michelle Obi), Megumi Toyota (Kristin Toyota)

The dancers are all natoris who have been studying with Madame Kansuma for more than 40 years.

“We  are both so grateful and humbled to have so many come out to wish her well,” said Miyako Tachibana, daughter of Madame Kansuma.

Dr. Leonard Pronko, professor emeritus of Pomona College, explained that “Ninin Sanbaso” is an exuberant dance celebrating life, health and longevity.

Sojin Kim, curator of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, traveled from Washington for the event.

“I’m happy to be here in person to congratulate Madame Fujima Kansuma on behalf of the Smithsonian,” Kim said.

Emcee for the program was retired Court of Appeal Justice Kathryn Doi Todd.

Mme. Kansuma and daughter Miyako Tachibana with former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Consul General Akira Chiba and interim JACCC President Daren Mooko. (Courtesy TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO)

Special greetings were offered by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who praised Madame Kansuma for her cultural contributions and also her strong, youthful spirit.

Kansuma, who turned 100 in May, has taught more than 2,000 dancers, 48 of whom have been granted professional standing by kabuki grandmasters. Her troupe, Fujima Kansuma Kai, has performed extensively at such venues as the opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the 1980 Tournament of Roses Parade, Japanese festivals at Disneyland, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Most recently, she served as the official Nisei Week choreographer in August.

Kansuma was awarded in 1985 the Fifth Class Order of the Precious Crown from the government of Japan in recognition of her contributions toward encouraging the appreciation of Japanese culture in the U.S. In 1987, she received the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. She was the recipient of the Japanese American National Museum’s Cultural Ambassador Award in 2005.

This event was a co-production of the JACCC, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Japanese American National Museum, and Alliance for California Traditional Arts, and received federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

At the conclusion of the performance, the audience gave Madame Kansuma a standing ovation and she expressed her appreciation, leading the group in a rousing sanbon jime cheer.

Dancers of Fujima Kansuma Kai perform as part of the celebration. (Courtesy TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO)

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