2023 Performances

Kikuhiro Otowa and Ritsuyo Wazaogi

Grand Kabuki – Music and Dance Theater Extravaganza

Kabuki Presentations

11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 5:35 pm • Yardley Hall

Kabuki is the classical and popular larger-than-life Japanese music theater tradition dating back to the early 1600s and going through many evolutions as popular theater and dance to flourish now, some 400 years later. Kabuki (whose name comes from the verb, “kabuku”, meaning tilt or lean, like a rakish tilt to your hat), started as ladies dancing on the river flats in old Kyoto. From there it evolved into a male-based dance/drama form, and then reached a heyday in the mid-1800s, in Saruwaka Town Kabuki in Edo (modern-day Tokyo).

Our 2023 festival has invited guest Kabuki dancers Kikuhiro Otowa and Ritsuyo Wazaogi, both from Tokyo, to produce and present a Kabuki dance extravaganza, replete with live music, drama, dance and stage effects, audience participation and much more.

Our festival kabuki presentations will be forty-five minute shows that will take you back in time and space to the environs of old Edo and its Saruwaka Town Kabuki theater world. Dances will be performed in three iconic forms, the celebrational Sanbaso (Harvest Prayers and Celebrations), the female role Dōjōji (Maiden of Dōjōji Temple), and the male role Sukeroku (The Edo Dandy), all connected by a dramatic script that ties them together and welcomes the audience in.

An additional part of the program features Japanese dancer Kikuasuka Wakayagi performing the classic Japanese dance piece, Kyōganoko Dōjōji (Maiden of Dōjōji Temple).


  • Opening: Travel through time and space to 19th century Saruwaka Town in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), when Kabuki was at its heyday, after over 200 years of evolution and development.
  • Dance: Shitadashi Sanbaso (Tongue-out Sanbaso) by Kikuhiro OTOWA. A Kabuki dance celebrating the autumn harvest, longevity, and vitality.
  • Stage Action: Kurogo, the invisible stagehands.
  • Music and Kabuki
  • Dance: Kyôganoko Dôjôji (The Maiden of Dôjôji) by Ritsuyo WAZAOGI. A Kabuki dance in the Onnagata(female role) style.
  • Inside Kabuki: percussion, poses and audience participation.
  • Dance: Sukeroku (The Edo Dandy, Sukeroku) by Kikuhiro OTOWA. A Kabuki dance in the Aragoto (male role) style.


Tap below to read a bio of each performer.

Otowa Kikuhiro: Dancer, Director, Choreographer

Kikuhiro Otowa

Otowa Chrysanthemum (Mubun) / Otowa Kikuhiro (Wazaogi Mumon)
Dancer/Director/Choreographer and Director of WAZAOGI-ZA

Otowa-san comes to the 2023 festival from Tokyo. He was born in Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku. From an early age, he received instruction from Master Otowa Kikuzane. He moved to Tokyo alone at the age of fifteen, and studied under Kikuzo Otowa, the first Iemoto of the Otowa school, and was allowed to be a master teacher.

In 1962, he entered Nihon University College of Art, Department of Drama, where he founded the Kabuki and Dance Study Group and the Nagauta Study Group while studying theoretical research and practical techniques of Japanese classical performing arts.

In 1976, he became a member of the Shishi no Kai group of seven male dancers who transcended school styles. In 1991, he was invited by the  University of Illinois in the United States to accompany the Illinois Kabuki European Tour as an acting instructor. He has given Kabuki dance performances at the University of Illinois Krannert Center to great acclaim. In 2002, he collaborated with an opera company to perform “Madame Butterfly Oriental Fantasy”, where he oversaw writing and directing, and received high acclaim.

In 2003, he performed in Chicago at the invitation of Northwestern University and the University of Illinois.

He has choreographed, directed, and performed kabuki in many venues throughout the world. We are honored and extremely fortunate to have Otowa-san at our festival this year.

Ritsuyo Wazaogi: Dancer, Director, Dresser

Ritsuyo Wazaogi

Ritsuyo Wazaogi
Dancer/Choreographer/Dresser/Wazaogi-za (Troupe) Costume Manager

Ritsuyo Wazaogi also comes to the 2023 festival from Tokyo. Born in Chiba prefecture she has been involved in dance since childhood. In 1998, she won the gold prize at the “Invitation to Creation Dance of Young Budding Artists” contest sponsored by the Japan Creative Dance Promotion Foundation held at Asakusa Public Hall. In 2006, she was selected as a young Japanese dance selection member of the Foundation for the Promotion of Japanese Creative Dance (directing and choreography).

In 2008, she studied under Kikuhiro Otowa. In the same year, she studied minyo shamisen under Taifuji Fujimoto. In April 2016, the YouTube channel “WazaogiRitsuyo” (Society for the Promotion of Japanese Performing Arts) was opened. She studies and introduces Japanese culture.

In October 2017, she appeared in five dance performances in various places in Wisconsin, USA. In November 2019, she held her first recital, a creative classical dance “Uchiura-zuka Kofun Densetsu ~Sueno Tamana~” in Chiba Prefecture.

She has participated in many performances in South Korea and Taiwan, including as an assistant to Kikuhiro Otowa. She also works as a stage costume designer. She has also made many appearances outside the theater.

We are honored and extremely fortunate to have Wazaogi-san at our festival this year.

Yoko Hiraoka: Shamisen

Yoko Hiraoka, Shamisen

Yoko Hiraoka

Yoko Hiraoka is a master performer of the koto (13-string zither), shamisen (3-string lute), biwa (4- or 5- string fretted lute), and voice. An authoritative exponent and teacher of the traditional music of Japan, she is also an active interpreter of the contemporary repertoire for her instruments. She is a native of Kyoto, Japan and studied classical koto and shamisen music from an early age.

For more than thirty years, Ms. Hiraoka has performed and lectured extensively at universities, festivals, and on television/radio and studio recordings. Her appearances have included concerts and lectures at Columbia University, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Bowdoin College, Colby College and many other universities and major music festivals. Her website is www.japanesestrings.com.

David Kansuke Wheeler: Shakuhachi

David Kansuke Wheeler, Shakuhachi 

David Kansuke Wheeler

David Kansuke Wheeler is a musician and musicologist. David visited Japan in 1977 as an exchange student and entered the tutelage of shakuhachi master Junsuke Kawase III. In 1981, he returned to Japan on a Japanese Education Ministry scholarship to do graduate study at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, where he received his M. A. in musicology in 1985.

David has spent many decades immersed in the world of classical shakuhachi (bamboo flute), both during his long residence in Japan and now in the US.  He now works to present this fascinating instrument and its musical charms to international audiences.

Since 1982, David has been performing, teaching, lecturing, and writing about the shakuhachi and Japanese music both in Japan and around the world and has made numerous performance appearances on Japanese television and radio.

Maiko Taneda Uhlich

Maiko Taneda Uhlich

Maiko Uhlich is originally from Tokyo, Japan. She has been the lead Emcee for Japan Festival since 2016.

She graduated from University of Central Missouri with a BS degree in Broadcasting and Film, minoring in Theater Art and Photography. Maiko also obtained her Master of Art Degree in Mass Communication.

In college, she was active in various disciplines of theater productions, including stage make-up, set productions, and lighting designs. Maiko got into emceeing for multiple events during college by volunteering as a host for the international student culture night performances and pageants.

Denver Taiko

Denver Taiko

3:25 pm and 6:30 pm • Yardley Hall
Workshop: 3:55 • Yardley Hall

Denver Taiko is a percussive group that has been in existence for over 40 years. Using traditional Japanese drums and other instruments, Denver Taiko combines both modern and ancient rhythms into a style and sound which is uniquely their own. This group provides an outlet for cultural and personal expression that is both visually exciting and emotionally moving.

Be sure to come to see the energy, spirit and artistry of Denver Taiko that has “rocked” audiences for more than 40 years!

Three Trails Taiko

Three Trails Taiko

11:55 am • Yardley Hall

Three Trails Taiko is a community group, currently consisting of approximately twelve volunteers. They have performed for local festivals, relief events, libraries, organizations and business events in Greater Kansas City area. Their goal is to become better taiko players in mind, body, and spirit while sharing the tradition, culture and art of Kumi Daiko and Japan with the surrounding community.

 Three Trails Taiko is available to perform for various events. Please visit www.threetrailstaiko.com for more information.

Asuka Iijima (Wakayagi Kiku Asuka)

Asuka Iijima

Nihon BUyŌ Dance

3:00 pm and 5:10 pm • Yardley Hall

Asuka Iijima (Wakayagi Kiku Asuka) began her study of Japanese Dancing at age seven, studying under Master Wakayagi Kichikomae. She has over twenty years of dance training. Her stage performances include: Hane no Kamuro, Fuji Musume, Kioi Jishi, and Shigure Saigyo.

She studied abroad for advanced academic degrees from 2000 to 2005 completing both master’s and PhD degrees. Since 2007, she has been performing to popular Japanese ballads and local folk songs such as Yagibushi rather than traditional kabuki style music.

In 2021, she was certified as Shihan (Master of Japanese Dancing ) and is preparing to open a school of dance. She received a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and English Education from Keio University; a master’s degree in composition and TESOL (a certificate for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania; and a PhD Degree in Composition and TESOL from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Currently, she is an English instructor at Keio University in Tokyo and serves as an English instructor and tutor for various academic institutions.

Ms. Iijima will perform a Nihon-buyō dance called Dôjôji. Nihon-buyō (Japanese dance) refers to the classical Japanese performing art of dance. Nihon-buyō has three main elements: mai, odori and furi. Mai is a static and abstract movement with an emphasis on the ritual aspect, which is often present in the adaptation sequences of the theater; odori is a dynamic and rhythmic movement resulting from nenbutsu-odori (ja), a dance invented by a Buddhist monk around the 10th century; furi includes theatrical, dramatic and figurative body language (such as writing a letter, drinking sake, etc.), representing the actions of everyday life in the Edo period.  The term buyō is a modern term coined during the Meiji period (1868–1911) as a term for “dance”.

Aya Uchida and Mike Ito

Aya Uchida (Japanese Pop Singer), Jo Yamanaka (Guitar), and Mike Ito (Violin)

12:30 pm and 4:35 pm • Yardley Hall

The GKC Japan Festival is proud to again feature Ms. Aya Uchida, a native of Kyoto, Japan, who will perform for us again this year. Ms. Uchida was born in Kyoto, Japan. In 2009, she met with guitarist, Jo Yamanaka and they started to produce and sing their original songs. Their first collaborative single, Mahalo-Arigato, was originally created for the Kansas City Japan Festival and was very well received in the U.S. Mr. Jo Yamanaka will accompany Aya on guitar.

Mike Ito is a very special guest performer at our festival this year who will perform on violin with Aya and Jo. Mike is from Tokyo, Japan and has performed with the Baldknobbers Jamboree show in Branson, Missouri for over thirty years. We are so glad to have Mike as a part of our 2023 festival and we really appreciate that he is joining us.

Tatsumaki Yosakoi

Tatsumaki Yosakoi, Japanese Yosakoi Dance Club


1:30 pm • Polsky Theater
Workshop 2:00 pm • Polsky Theater

Yosakoi is a unique style of dance that originated in Japan. Yosakoi started in the city of Kochi in 1954, as a modern rendition of Awa Odori, a traditional summer dance. As of 2005, Yosakoi-style dancing has spread throughout much of Japan. The style of dance is highly energetic, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music.

In June of 2006, the Tatsumaki Yosakoi, Japanese Yosakoi Dance Club, from Kansas State University traveled to Hokkaido, Japan, to participate in the large Yosakoi festival there. With more than 43,000 dancers and 370-plus teams, the K-State Yosakoi Dance Group was awarded a special “Performance Award”.

Candy Art by Candy Miyuki

Japanese Candy Art


Midwest Trust Center Room 211
11am–2pm, 3pm–5pm, and 6pm–7pm

Miyuki Sugimori is a candy artist and the only female professional who can skillfully shape candy material into flowers and animals by blowing air into it. Ms. Sugimori then finishes the candy by shaping it with her fingers and scissors and colors her creations with edible dye. She has been a favorite at past Japan festivals.

Kansas City Japanese Choir Himawari

Various Times • CapFed Conference Center

Himawari is a local choral group in which members enjoy experiencing Japanese culture and tradition through singing Japanese songs.

Their songs remind listeners of nostalgic images of the beautiful scenery of the four seasons in Japan. For the Japan Festival, the group will also be performing some American songs which have been translated into Japanese.

The performers will be singing in casual kimonos, so that the audience can enjoy that aspect of Japanese culture as well.