Kanrin Maru committee looks to next 150 years of celebrating U.S.-Japan relationship

ENDING THE YEAR WITH A BANG — Members of Gen Taiko performed for the audience at the end of the closing ceremony for the year-long celebration of the Kanrin Maru’s 150th anniversary. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

A small group of people gathered around the rotunda of San Francisco’s City Hall on the evening of Dec. 13 for the closing ceremonies of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese ship in the United States. Along with a message from Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata and the city of San Francisco, the hour-long event featured a koto performance at the beginning and a taiko performance at the end.

The event praised the year-long celebration that started in March of this year and continued through this month. The Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco and the city of San Francisco presented a commendation to the co-chairs of the celebration, Allen Okamoto and Isao Matsuura.

The events that were held included cultural exchanges and visitations by Japanese naval ships and the dedication of a plaque at Pier 9, the Port of San Francisco. The year-long celebration further served as an opportunity for the two countries to deepen their ties.

Hydra Mendoza, vice president of San Francisco’s Board of Education, represented the city of San Francisco at the event, except for a brief moment when Mayor Gavin Newsom made an appearance. While it is rare for the Board of Education to represent the mayor of San Francisco, Mendoza was at home speaking for the city, having visited Japan to observe Japanese schools. She proclaimed that Dec. 13 would from now on be known as “San Francisco’s Kanrin Maru Day.”

Newly appointed Consul General Inomata noted that he learned much about the long history between the two nations since arriving in San Francisco just a few months ago. He said he wished that the night would be a prelude to the following 150 years of continued relations between the United States and Japan.

The event’s musical guests entertained those gathered for the event, as well as attracted the passing visitor. The 18-koto performance at the beginning of the evening featured “Like a Bird” by Tadao Sawai, a contemporary piece that mixes both the traditional and modern techniques found within koto music. The performers came together from all over the United States to perform the piece. The ceremony concluded with a performance by Gen Taiko. The youngest group of drummers came out to play taiko to look toward the future.

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