Chicago Shimpo
New Chicago Japanese American Association Holds Its Closing Ceremony

• The New Chicago Japanese American Association (NCJAA) held its closing ceremony on May 10 at Double Tree Hotel in Arlington Heights. Since its inception in 1998, NCJAA had promoted US-Japan friendship through the Japanese traditional culture for more than 20 years. The group also had introduced young aspiring musicians and artists through its annual spring and autumn concerts and its new year’s parties.

• NCJAA was initiated by Akiko Sugano and Minoru Saito and formed by a group of Japanese Americans who had grown up in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. after WWII. Because of their young days in Japan, they were well-versed in the Japanese traditional culture.
• For instance, Sugano, who was a fine koto player, brought American koto musicians, Tsugaru shamisen players, Japanese soprano singers, violinists, pianists and more through her networks. Saito, the first President of NCJAA, who was an antiquary and had connections with art museums, also brought the fine art and artists.

• Sugano became the second President. While she actively found young musicians, she initiated a kimono club. She invited young Japanese and American women to afternoon tea parties and gave them an opportunity to wear a kimono dress. She also invited kimono dressers and held a kimono dressing lecture.

• As time went by, the initial members in their age of 50s became 70s, and the members in their 60s were reaching into their 80s. Sugano thought that NCJAA needed younger power and leadership, so she entrusted Rie Katayama as the third President in 2011.

• Katayama, who is a Flamenco dancer and also a koto player, brought new musicians and artists to NCJAA both from the Japanese and American communities through her networks. Despite her efforts, young generations’ behavioral tendency has changed with the rapid change of the digital world.

• Katayama said that one of the reasons why NCJAA had faced difficulties continuing operation was, “the decline of membership with aging members. On the other hand, younger generations are not interested in becoming a member while they enjoy attending NCJAA’s events. We tried to encourage them to join us through facebook and cool fliers, but the membership didn’t increase.”

• According to Katayama, the second reason was the missing NCJAA’s official documents before she joined the group. It was difficult to submit necessary documents to IRS to keep the group as a non-for-profit organization. On the advice from professionals, the members made a tough decision to close it.

• Katayama said, “When we thought of benefits that NCJAA could offer to the public, we couldn’t see a bright vision without dramatic change of the group. So we came to a conclusion that the best way would be expressing our gratitude to our supporters and close it.”
• She added that although NCJAA was closed, the group members would continue to support young musicians and artists through new and efficient ways that she has been working on.

• Katayama presented a brief history of NCJAA’s activities by showing photos and expressed her deep appreciation to the members and supporters.

• Consul General Naoki Ito said, “This is a sort of bitter and sweet moment. It’s bitter because NCJAA is going to end its history, but it has been a great resource of the Japanese and Japanese American community and friends for Japan. It’s sweet, if I may say so, because the organization has achieved so many things as well as connections, which the members have created, and will continue into the future.”

• CG Ito thanked Katayama and the members for collaborating with Consulate General’s events for years and mentioned about the name of the new era “Reiwa”, which means “beautiful harmony.” He said that Katayama had stated one of NCJAA’s missions in a new year’s party that the group would promote harmony through music, human relations, and the Japanese culture. He applauded that her statement of “harmony” coincided with Reiwa.

• Danna Gerlich, who has been taking a role of bilingual M.C. for years, talked about how she was encouraged to take the role by a member of NCJAA and memories of her involvement in the group.
• As NCJAA devoted itself to introduce young artists, it brought a young talented comedian, Saku Yanagawa, at its last party. Yanagawa has been actively performing his comedy act in Chicago, New York, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, UK, Scotland, and other cities and countries. His interview will be published in the next issue.

• Duo Yumeno, Hikaru Tamaki and Yoko Reikano Kimura, who were introduced in NCJAA’s New Year’s party in 2011, performed a beautiful cello and koto duo. The first piece, Full Bloom, was offered for Katayama to pay respect for her hard work. The couple also played Suite for Cello No.3 composed by J.S Bach; Kumiuta Akashi which described a part of the Tale of Genji; and Frolicking with the Birds composed by Marty Regan.

• Dinner tables were decorated with flowers arranged by Misato Sato, and handmade Japanese cakes were prepared by Sachiko Masuoka for each attendee. All attendees talked about nice memories of NCJAA’s events during a buffet

Attendees of NCJAA’s closing ceremony enjoy the last concert presented by Duo Yumeno.

Rie Katayama, President of NCJAA

Consul General Naoki Ito

Standup Comedian Saku Yanagawa

Duo Yumeno