New Chicago Japanese American Association Holds Its Closing Ceremony
• 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.
• 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.”
• 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.
• 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