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Chicago Shimpo
Anderson Gardens Brings Many Artisans and Artists from Japan to Summer Festival

The Anderson Gardens in Rockford held the sixth Japanese Summer Festival on August 19 and 20 and drew thousands of visitors. This year many traditional artisans, artists, and performers participated in the festival from many parts of Japan and the U.S. Some of them were Kyo-garden lantern artist Takaaki Saida, bamboo fence maker Akihiro Mashimo, Soryu ceramic artist Madoka Wakinami, Satsuma Button artist Shiho Murota, and special guest performers from the Super Team in the Nippon Ginkenshibu Foundation, who presented stunning sword dancing.

The Summer Festival started with taiko drumming by Ho Etsu Taiko followed by a calligraphy performance by Seiran Chiba from Fukushima Prefecture, Kagura-Mask Dances by Supasari who narrated Japanese myths, sword dancing by the Super Team, martial arts by Bujinkan Dojo, Aikido demonstrations, Awa Odori by Chicago Mikoren Dancing troop, and Koto music by Chicago Koto Group. This year, popular Candyman Masaji Terasawa returned to the Festival.

In the Visitor Center, falconry; Satsuma button, which is small porcelain decorated with very fine drawings and pigments; and ikebana were demonstrated and displayed. Seiran Chiba drew calligraphy on the requests by visitors. Soryu potteries were displayed and also available for sale. Kimono dresses were sold by Ohio Kimono, and the visitors enjoyed trying on samurai armor, which were brought by the members of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.

Tea ceremonies were demonstrated in the Guest House, and a group of people tasted a sweet and a bowl of tea in the 16th century’s sukiya style house. Bowls of tea were also served at the Gazebo near the West Waterfall.
Near the Guest House, artisans demonstrated pottery making, bamboo fence making, and stone carving. The members of the Midwest Cosplay Group posed for a photo with visitors.

In the opening ceremony, David Anderson welcomed the visitors.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara praised the Anderson family for creating authentic Japanese gardens in Rockford and said, “The Anderson Garden does more than just helps tourism but helps us to appreciate so many different cultures. And this weekend, it’s an honor to the City of Rockford to appreciate Japanese traditional culture.”

Consul General Naoki Ito talked about the Japanese gardens saying, “Japanese gardens are great example of admiration and co-existing with nature by emphasizing the beauty of Japan’s natural landscape instead of altering it.” He also said, “Being at the Anderson Gardens, you will be able to feel distinct tranquility and healing power of Japanese gardens.” He added that he was pleased that Summer Festival was held in such a place and deepened relationship between the people of Rockford and Japan.

Mari Yamamoto, Chair of the U.S.-Japan Relations Committee in the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC), said that the Anderson Gardens are gem in the U.S. and praised the well -maintained gardens and staff’s hard work. She also explained the meaning of the hanging scroll in the Guest House that five kanji characters were telling visitors, “Every day is a good day,” “So, please enjoy every minute and every corner of the gardens,” she said.

Professor Emeritus Kimiko Gunji at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana said that John Anderson planted a seed of the garden with his wife Linda 39 years ago, and it has grown to the today’s Anderson Gardens. “If each person plants one seed of peace, we’ll get one step closer to the world peace. Let’s enjoy the festival and plant a seed of peace together,” she said.

Kazuo Shimizu, President of the Kikkoman Food, which has been a longtime supporter of the Anderson Gardens, said, “When you enter the gardens, it is like walking into another world where your worries would fade away. While you are here, meet new people, listen to new music sounds. Embracing new things could enrich your life, and if you do that, you might begin to understand why you love Japan so much.”

David Anderson answered Shimpo’s interview and said, “It is great to see so many people from so many different ethnic backgrounds come together to broaden their understanding of the traditional Japanese arts.”
He continued “Anderson Japanese Gardens’ Summer Festival attracts top talent from around Japan and the United States. We are so fortunate to have world-class traditional artists right here in the Chicago area. They are complemented by dozens of artisans who come from cities around Japan to participate in the Summer Festival.
Just as important a message, he stated, “Anderson Japanese Gardens is only able to offer first-class cultural programing because of the sponsorship support it receives from Kikkoman, The Nippon Ginkenshibu Foundation, BMO Harris Bank and Nicor Gas. This is very important to share because AJG is only able to continue its cultural programing if it has sponsorship support from the Japanese Business Community.”

Traditional Artisans from Kyoto

Madoka Wakunami brought ceramic art of Kyo Yaki Soryu, from Kyoto for the first time and demonstrated it by using a tool called “tobi kanna”. It leaped quickly on a ceramic surface and created unique dots on it.
Madoka was born in Koishihara, Fukuoka Prefecture, and her father is the 14th generation of Koishihara pottery maker. She entered college to become a teacher, but her interests in the pottery grew stronger and stronger. She thought that she would succeed her father, so she entered a special pottery school in Kyoto after she graduated from college.
While she was studying at the school, she met her husband, who was the fourth generation of Soryu, which mainly produced porcelains, incense burners, and vases.
After they married, they opened their studio “Soryu Gama” and have collaborated to produce new types of potteries by using techniques from both families. (

Kyo-garden lantern artist Takaaki Saida is the fifth generation of the Stonesmith Saida Sekizai, which was established in 1902. This year, he carved a kanji character “奏” on the surface of a stone, which is called “Musician’s Stone” in the Anderson Gardens. He said that the character’s meaning was to play an instrument; however, it had many more meanings in our lives. (

Bamboo fence maker Akihiro Mashimo was born and raised in a bamboo circumstance in Nagaoka-Kyo City. Twenty years of his works at Nagaoka Meichiku Co. are included at famous temples and shrines, such as Katsura Rikyu, Heian Jingu, and Kasiwara Jingu. This year, he brought bamboos from Japan because local ones were very different from Japan’s, so he could make a thin, flat material for a fence from a thick piece of bamboo. (

What are Gin-Ei, Gin-Ken, Shi-bu?

According to Hedeharu Hirowatari, Executive Director and Secretary General of the Nippon Ginkenshibu Foundation, “gin-ei” is reading an old Chinese poem with a melody; “gin-ken” is dancing with swords; and shi-bu is dancing with fans. Both dances come with gin-ei.
The foundation has about 100,000 memberships which are consisted of many different local schools. Another 100,000 people are practicing and performing the old form of arts outside of the foundation in Japan.

The foundation will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and is planning to send 250 to 260 members overseas to introduce the old arts. As a prelude of the anniversary, the foundation selected 12 performers from the Super Team to visit Summer Festival in the Anderson Gardens. Each of the 12 members had won the first or second place in local competitions, then national competitions. Their performances were highly sophisticated due to a longtime, strict practice in their own schools.

Performer Interviews

Shoho Irikura is a college student in Tokyo and, his home in Aichi Prefecture is the school of Nihon Soshin Ryu. He began to learn ken-bu and shi-bu when he was two or three years old.
According to Irikura, characteristics of ken-bu and shi-bu were expressing an old Chinese poem or waka poem by dance movements about in three minutes. “My father was very strict when I was small, but now he allows me to dance freely,” he said.
The Nihon Soshin Ryu covers the Chubu area in Japan and had more than 1,000 members some years ago. “Our membership seems to decrease in recent years a little by little, so I hope that overseas activities will attract more members,” Irikura said.

Gaiko Soutome started ken-bu and shi-bu when he was three at the school of Shintomunengaizan Ryu in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture. His grandfather and his mother performed the arts as a hobby, so it was natural for him to do it. He has lived in Tokyo in recent years and teaches the arts while he sells fans as his job.
Soutome said, “This is the 24th year since I started ken-bu and shi-bu. I enjoy creating new performance one by one, although it is not easy.”

Masachie Tada is daughter of the Seigi Ryu Shibu Dokokai School and began to learn shi-bu when she entered grade school. She said that her father didn’t allow her to practice it until she could make her own decision to do it.
“Each piece has a different character, and his or her mind is different. We also express scenes in a poem by the dance, so I’m always careful about expressing characters and scenes,” Tada explained. She not only dances to old poetry, but also performs modern pieces like CATS.
Tada had several overseas performances with her father. “This is the first time without my father, so I’m a little bit nervous,” She said.

Kasei Morita is a gin-ei singer and started it when she was three because her grandparents and parents operated gin-ei classes in Kagoshima Prefecture. Her family’s original school is the Gindo Tosei Ryu in Miyazaki. She went to Miyazaki to learn about it, and the master of the school came to Kagoshima to teach.
Morita has lived in Kumamoto Prefecture in recent years and said, “Keeping my voice in good shape would be everyday practice. Because I sing Chinese poems, I feel kind of a language barrier, but I think that I could express the meaning by my singing and expressive skills.”

Opening Ceremony, Kampai with sake

David Anderson


Hoetsu Taiko and calligraphy by Seiran Chiba (R)

Madoka Wakunami with John and Linda Anderson

Kyo-garden Lantern Artist Takaaki Saida

Bamboo fence maker Akihiro Mashimo

Performance Gin-Ken. Shoho Irikura is front.