Discover Nikkei

https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/544/

The performing arts not for Nisei

When I came to this temple in ’68, it was the first Japanese American community I’ve ever experienced. I knew nothing about the Japanese American community. So I was really fascinated. Some of it was familiar, other things were really strange. So I was really fascinated by it. And part of it was the Isseis still had this tradition of entertaining. You could ask any Issei to sing a song or do something and they would say, “No, no, no. I can’t. I can’t” and then whip out the lyrics, you know, on a card. So each person had this and it’s a real tradition for that generation.

It ends suddenly with the Niseis. They don’t want to have anything to do with it. And so they grew up without doing this. So they grew up being embarrassed by this. When it came time for after major services to have an entertainment of some kind, they told their kids, “Get something together.” And so they got the kids to do it. Suddenly, performance became a children’s thing. So for the whole Nisei generation, you didn’t go into performing arts. You just didn’t. That was childish.

Whereas, for the Issei, if you didn’t do…if you weren’t performing something, you weren’t civilized. If you couldn’t recite a poem, you couldn’t do something or put hashi in your nose and dance, you know, you weren’t cultured. So this difference was really clear. I mean you can notice it immediately.

When the kids…it was a big heyday of little kids doing performances after Hanamatsuri and Bodhi Day and that kind of thing, until Nobuko came along. And suddenly a whole generation of Sanseis were interested in it and they were game for anything. I mean tone-deaf people like me would start singing. And it was really fascinating to watch.


arts culture generations identity immigrants immigration Issei Japan migration Nisei Sansei

Date: December 3, 2004

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Art Hansen, Sojin Kim

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Rev. Masao Kodani is a Sansei minister of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko - the second taiko group established in the United States and the first Japanese American Buddhist group. Born in Glendale, California, Rev. Kodani was a young child when he and his family were incarcerated at Poston Relocation Center in Arizona during WWII. After his family's return toLos Angeles, they lived in a predominantly African American community near the neighborhood of Watts. Although they were Buddhist, his parents sent their children to Evergreen Baptist Church in East L.A. because they thought it would be easier for them to fit in. After graduating from Centennial High School, Reverend Kodani attended the University of California at Santa Barbara where he earned his degree in East Asian Studies. While at UC Santa Barbara, he became close with Reverend Art Takemoto of Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. Through Rev. Takemoto’s influence, Kodani traveled to Japanto study Buddhism at Ryukoku University. After his studies were completed, he returned to the United States and was assigned to the Senshin Buddhist Temple in South Central Los Angeles. In 1969, he established Kinnara Taiko with members of the temple as a Japanese American Buddhist ensemble with the objective of enjoying the Buddha-Dharma (Horaku)through the experience. Their composition, "Ashura" has become one of the most learned adapted pieces in the American taiko repertory. (December 3, 2004)

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