Misa Murohashi, translated by Bruce Rutledge
Mary Ohno (Kine-ie School /Hanayagi School), Director of the Kabuki Academy, instructing Japanese dance and Naga-uta Shamisen music, conducted a goodwill tour in Italy and Germany this October called “Sound of Japan.” Ohno was paired with a shamisen student from Napoli, Paolo Cotrone, whom she had been teaching online since 2015. In Italy, the duo played at the Museo d’Arte Orientale di Venezia, the Chiesa dei Santi Martiri Giapponesi, a Japanese church in the suburbs of Rome, and Naples Eastern University. In Germany, she held a shamisen workshop in Berlin with members of a shamisen enthusiasts group.
“In Italy and Germany, I was surprised at the deep interest people at the performances showed in the classical performing arts,” Ohno said. The Italian performances opened with the Italian national anthem played on the shamisen. While Cotrone sang and played, Ohno performed Japanese dances called “Miyakodori” and “Echigojishi.” “At Naples Eastern University, we performed a song beloved by Italians, ‘Funiculi Funicula,’ and received a huge ovation,” Ohno recalled. “I was so impressed with the passion and warmth of the Italians.” In Germany, she performed the German national anthem and the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and talked about the history of Kabuki and the naga-uta. By collaborating with the group of shamisen enthusiasts, she deepened their friendship.
The Kabuki Academy was founded in 1984 by Ohno, who has taught in Tacoma and at Seattle Central College. Lately, her activities have taken her beyond Washington state, including performances in 20 US states, South Africa, and Myanmar. “My father was the chief announcer for NHK overseas broadcasting, and after the war, he helped spread English conversation ability in Japan through his radio show ‘Come Come English.’ In contrast, my mission is to teach and share the traditional Japanese dance and music to people from all over the world.” For more information on Kabuki Academy’s performances and classes, visit its website.