JUN 25, 2018 8:45 AM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — This fall, Japan House will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its permanent home – a place to offer tea ceremonies and programs about the arts and culture of Japan – with a day of Japanese performers and artists at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
The Japan House program moved into its own building, with tearooms and surrounded by Japanese gardens, at the University of Illinois Arboretum in 1998.
The Krannert Center event Sept. 8 will feature Japanese musicians and performers, including Ho Etsu Taiko, a Japanese drumming group from Chicago; musicians from the Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music in Japan; Michiyoshi Sato, a Japanese musician who plays tsugaru shamisen, a stringed instrument, and his accompanying band; and Obon Odori, a Japanese folk dance performed during Obon festivals in Japan. The event will include a tea ceremony, a showcase of kimonos by the Hakubi Kimono School in Japan and a large-scale calligraphy executed by Japanese calligrapher Seiran Chiba. Tickets for the event will go on sale July 14 when Krannert Center begins ticket sales for its 2018-19 season.
Japan House, 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana, will host a dinner and fundraiser the evening of Sept. 8 titled “East Meets Midwest,” with chefs from Japan and the U.S. preparing the meal. The dinner will include speakers and performers. Tickets are available now by calling Japan House at 217-244-9934.
The anniversary celebration will highlight female artists and performers in recognition of Kimiko Gunji, the former director of Japan House who was instrumental in establishing its permanent location. She obtained funding from various Japanese organizations despite the fact that Japanese culture, including the tea ceremony, has traditionally been dominated by men, said Cynthia Voelkl, the assistant director of Japan House.
The tradition of offering programs in Japanese arts and culture predates the current Japan House. It began in 1964 with Shozo Sato, a professor emeritus of art and design and an artist-in-residence at Krannert Center from 1969 to 1992. He began hosting tea ceremonies, first at the art school and then in his own home, until the U. of I. offered him the use of a Victorian house owned by the university on California Avenue in Urbana, which became the original Japan House.
Sato retired in 1992 and the house was torn down. Gunji, who succeeded Sato as the director of Japan House, worked with university administrators to select a site at the Arborteum for a new building. Gunji sought donations for the project, securing funding for two tearooms from the Urasenke Foundation of Tea in Japan, a $100,000 donation from the Japan Illini Club, and $100,000 grants from the Commemorative Association for the Japan World Exhibition and the Japan Foundation for Global Partnerships.
The new Japan House, with three Japanese tearooms, was dedicated June 18, 1998. Later additions include a Japanese tea garden, Zen-style rock garden and an alley of cherry trees leading to the building.
“It’s going to be great to look back at what we started with, and the range of programming now, and to highlight all the people who made it happen,” Voelkl said.
The fourth annual Matsuri Festival will be held the same weekend as the Krannert Center event as part of the anniversary celebration. It will be Sept. 9 at Japan House, an expanded event this year with more performers, including international Japanese music groups Shonen Knife and the 126.96.36.199’s, folk dancing and interactive activities, such as ikebana (flower arranging) and tea ceremonies. It will also include a sake and beer tasting for the first time, as well as tours of the Arboretum by Master Gardeners.
Matsuri will include its usual performers and activities as well, including the Ho Etsu Taiko drum group, martial arts demonstrations, “The Candyman” street performer who makes candy sculptures, local food vendors, local artists and fireworks.
Editor’s note: For more information, go to the Japan House website at http://japanhouse.art.illinois.edu/en/ or contact Japan House at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Illinois NEWS BUREAU