2019 President’s Awards

President’s Award – Madame Sosei Shizuye Matsumoto (posthumously)

Sosei Shizuye Matsumoto was born February 21, 1916, in Honolulu, as Shizuye Yagi. After attending high school in Los Angeles, she enrolled in the French American Fashion Design School and graduated in 1941. At that time, she also began training in chado, the “Way of Tea” ceremony. She moved to Kyoto, Japan, and for six years trained under Tantansai, Fourteenth Generation Grandmaster of the Urasenke School of Chado, and Shoshitsu Sen, Fifteenth Generation Grandmaster.

Following World War II, Sosei Matsumoto moved to Los Angeles and saw few practitioners of the tea ceremony. Her desire to start a school was thwarted by the unsettled times, with Japanese Americans returning from wartime internment camps.

On May 4, 1948, she married Edward (Eddie) Tetsuo Matsumoto, an electronic engineer, who built a tearoom for her in their first home on Coronado Street. After moving to her permanent residence on Occidental Boulevard in 1955, he built a new tearoom for her, later to be named “Showaken”.

In 1951, she was invited to the signing of the US – Japan peace treaty in San Francisco, where over a four-day period she served tea to more than 3,000 American and Japanese officials, including President Truman and Prime Minister Yoshida. Later that year, she started teaching the Urasenke Tea Ceremony in Los Angeles, convening the first tea ceremony classes ever held in the US; one of her ceremonies is shown in the Twentieth Century Fox film, “East Is East”.

Throughout the 1950s, Matsumoto Sensei introduced millions of Americans to chado through appearances on CBS and NBC television. In 1968, she presented the tea ceremony at the Olympic Arts Festival in Mexico City. Her more than 60 years of teaching and lecturing resulted in more than 120 chado teachers and thousands more tea ceremony devotees. Over the years, her students included Japanese and American-born people interested in learning the ancient Japanese tea ceremony.

Matsumoto Sensei exemplified the character of a “chajin” or tea person. She not only knew and could teach all the procedures for chado, but she also manifested the true spirit of self-discipline and compassion for others, which only a few students are ever able to attain.

In 1989, she received the title Meiyo Shihan, Honored Master, from her instructor Shoshitsu Sen. This is the highest teaching certificate available for instructors of Japanese tea ceremony. She taught, lectured and demonstrated widely throughout Southern California and the Southwest at a long list of cultural, educational and civic venues, including regular tea classes at UCLA. In recognition of her long service to preserving Japanese culture, she received the Fifth Order of the Merit (The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Rays) from the Emperor of Japan in November 1990. She was also honored by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Japanese American National Museum, and other community organizations.

Since 1990, she voluntarily offered Keiro Retirement Home residents tea ceremony classes once a month, which continue to be offered by her students. In 1994, then first lady Hillary Clinton presented her with the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Throughout her career, Matsumoto Sensei continued to receive numerous awards in recognition of her great work, including the Chado Bunka Sho award from Urasenke Konnichian in 2010, Certificate of Commendation from the U.S. Senate & Alliance in California Traditional Arts in 2018, and an award from the Smithsonian Institution in 2019. Matsumoto Sensei has left a rich and enduring legacy in the Way of Tea in Los Angeles.


President’s Award – Madame Kangiku Sanjo (posthumously)

Kangiku Sanjo was born June Ito on February 8, 1940 in Boyle Heights, California to Jimmie and Alice Ito. In 1942, the family was interned in the camp at Manzanar. When the war ended, the family moved to Bunker Hill in Los Angeles.

At the age of 4 years old, she began taking Japanese classical dance lessons. At the age of nine, she came under the tutelage of Kanya Sanjo V (then known as Miharu Bando) to study both nagauta music and nihon buyo. Kangiku Sanjo reached professional status (natori) at the age of 16 and made her debut performing “Kyoganoko Musume Dojoji” and “Yasuna.”

Within a few years she became an apprentice (uchi deshi) with Kanya Sanjo V (grandmaster) and assisted in instructing and producing the “Kabuki Dance” and “Kayo Buyo Series” programs until the passing of Kanya Sanjo in June 1989. She had also enhanced her study of nagauta music with the late Grandmaster Yajuro Kineya IX.

Kangiku Sanjo was offered and accepted opportunities to advance studies by kabuki dance choreographers and instructors in Japan. She performed with the late Onoe Shoroku II with Kanya Sanjo V at the National Theater of Japan in March 1969 accompanied by bunraku musicians of Osaka in a dance production “Shishi no Yume” (loin’s dream).

Another career highlight includes her appearance in David Bowie’s 1976 film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” She and Kanya Sanjo V were featured in the Kabuki performance segment. She also performed with then known Senjaku Nakamura as the butterfly in “Kagami Jishi” in 1981.

Kangiku Sanjo appeared in poster ads, television programs and represented Japan Kabuki Theater in television promotions for the World’s Fair held in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1982.

She traveled often to Japan to study the latest techniques and trends in Japanese classical dance, jiutai mai with the late Hide Kanzaki II, percussion instruments (ohayashi) and tea ceremony. From January 2003 through November 2005, Kangiku Sanjo lived and worked in Japan, allowing her to undergo an intense, in depth study of the history, evolution, backstage work, choreography, costumes and props, past and present, all-encompassing the creativity and the production of the kabuki dance with renowned choreographers and instructors.

After the demise of Kanya Sanjo V, Kangiku Sanjo became the artistic director and official representative of the Kanya Sanjo V Kabuki Dance Company dedicated to preserve the culture heritage of a 300-year-old historical traditional art form.

Being named the official choreographer of the 2019 Nisei Week Ondo is a great honor and privilege. All the natori and students are looking forward to creating an exciting and memorable event memorializing Kangiku Sanjo’s great passion and desire to impart the Japanese culture on to future generations.