Every year at Nikkei Place’s Community Awards + Fundraising Dinner we honour people or organizations with awards for their immense contributions in building a strong and vibrant Nikkei community for all. They are our community leaders that help shape our ever changing community. This year, we honour four awardees — Dr. Akira Horii with the Presidents’ Award, Takeo Yamashiro with the Outstanding Community Service Award, Yoko Matsuno with the Japanese Culture Award, and John Endo Greenaway with the Japanese Canadian History Preservation & Education Award.
Meet Yoko Matsuno:
- Master teacher and dancer of Nishikawa-ryu
- Shamisen player, specializing in Nagauta
- Leads the Nishikawa Dance Group
- Has been performing and teaching Japanese classical dance in Vancouver for close to 40 years
- Formed the Satsuki-kai dance in May 2011 for members to study traditional Japanese dance under the tutelage of Master Kayo Nishikawa in a relaxed atmosphere. They perform at a number of diverse settings including senior homes and the Powell Street Festival.
- Has led the bon-odori dance every year at the Powell Street Festival
- Currently an active instructor at NNMCC
Yoko Matsuno started taking lessons when she was 4 years old. She liked dancing so much that she decided to proceed with the intensive study to master the art form through the Nishikawa school of odori. In 1962, she received the her Natori (teaching name), Kayo Nishikawa. Mrs. Matsuno not only dances but also plays shamisen, a three-stringed instrument used for accompanying odori. In 1973 she became a certified shamisen player specializing in Nagauta (“long song”), and took another stage name Katsuyuya Kineya. In the same year she immigrated to Canada.
In 1976, she started teaching the Japanese dance to members of the Japanese-Canadian community. In the following year she began teaching “matsuri-ondo” for Powell Street Festival and the Japanese Canadian Centennial celebration. Since then she has been teaching matsuri-ondo every year for the Powell Street Festival. As a member of the Nishikawa School, she performed 65 one-hour programs at the Japan Theatre of EXPO 86, Vancouver. She has lead the cultural impact of this art and introduced it to virtually thousands of people all over Canada.
For over 25 years she has been involved in “Touch of Japan”, a project by Japanese Consulate to introduce Japanese culture to Canadian public. She still actively demonstrates dance and kimono dressing to many schools, senior homes, community centres in Hope, Aldergrove, the Fraser Valley, Gibsons (Sunshine Coast) as part of cultural exchange program. She has been teaching bon-odori dance at Steveston Buddhist Church for many decades.
At NNMCC, she has been volunteering as an instructor of the museum’s Education program, the Taiken program (dancing and kimono dressing) All the materials used in the program are donated by her. All of the volunteers of this particular program are her dance class students Satsuki-kai. Satsuki-kai dance group was established in May 2011 with the purpose of introducing Japanese folk dance to a broader audience. Most recently, she and the Satsuki-kai dancing group initiated and performed at the Kimono Show held on April 3, 2016 at Nikkei Centre and raised over $7,000 and donated all the proceeds. Through dance and kimono dressing, she has been introducing Japanese Culture to the Canadian community for many years, and by leading the way contributed to the enrichment of the greater community.
Her nominator writes that:
Yoko “has demonstrated the best in what our community has to offer. Through selfless volunteerism and leadership she has inspired many in our community to embrace the art of Japanese dance and has had a significant impact in expanding this important cultural and iconic activity to a wide audience. Through bon-odori dance and Japanese traditional dance, she has brought many ethnic groups together. Through bon-odori dance and Japanese traditional dance, she has brought many ethnic groups together at Nikkei Cultural Centre. An example would be the bon-odori dance at Nikkei Matsuri, where young and old of all kinds of ethnic groups participate and enjoy dancing. You can see this in the faces of all the participants of the bon-odori dance.”