CN 2009 recap

This year’s NSU Culture Night was incredible!

Opening up was Kyodo Taiko, performing their Swing and Black and White sets. Black and White is a new, powerful set created this year which I suspect will become a new favorite among fans. As always, Kyodo loves to have fun – doing funny skits in between sets, and always showing off their skill and good humor throughout their performance.

Next was the drama team. Drama always sets the theme for the show, typically about the current issues of the Nikkei community. This year their performance centered on recent buyouts in Little Tokyo, hoping to bring attention to what has been a decidedly stealthy move by corporations that may end up removing a large chunk of the culture from Little Tokyo. This year’s set had plenty of humor to go along with it, occasionally poking fun at rival Los Angeles college USC. They brought back a running joke from last year’s performance which really had the croud busting up. This performance was split into several parts, spread throughout the night.

The Odori (traditional dance) team opened up with their typical slow, exaggerated, meticulous dance. But something was different this year – for the first time I’ve seen, they are using a bit more modern music. They performed Gion Kouta, and expertly merged it’s more complex and slightly faster music with the traditional Odori style. This approach was a pleasant surprise, and puts them more in line with Kyodo’s traditional-modern hybrid style.

NSU Modern’s first set was their very energetic Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which is a real treat to see live. Modern really shines here, showing a true passion for innovation in dance—these guys must sweat pure concentrated skill.

After a short intermission, Odori started the show performing the aptly named Matsuri, also a more modern upbeat song. This was evocative of a real matsuri (festival) in Japan and was very fun to watch!

Kyodo came back to perform Yonsei, Nanairo, and of course their signature finale Encore. Nanairo is a new set created by this year’s newbie class, but not to fear—this has all the energy you’d expect in a Kyodo performance. Kyodo holds a special place in my heart—the first time I saw them left me spellbound, causing me to fall in love with taiko and seek it out anywhere I could find it. I’ve been to many taiko performances since then—most of them featuring Kyodo—so I am quite familiar with Encore. Yet after all this time, it still fills me with the same glee as if I was seeing it for the first time.

Modern closed the night with their Tribal and Jazz sets, both of which I've never seen before. Tribal was typical Modern style—energetic, fun, super sexy, and good beats. Jazz took a completely different turn with a strong ballet performance, showing Modern’s diversity.

And that’s the night, it was a blast! I was happy to see Leech Sensei there, my awesome Japanese teacher from high school. Looks like he brought even more kids than when I originally came to a CN with him, so I’m glad to see Japanese is getting more popular! I just hope they aren’t giving him as hard of a time as I did, reading Dune in class and arguing with him about the merits of Quake vs. Diablo II ;).

Edit: added missing Kyodo and Modern videos, and updated the existing links to the CN2009 versions. Thanks zachirie!

NSU Culture Night 2009

NSU Culture Night 2009 flyer

There are only a few weeks left until the 23rd annual NSU Culture Night at UCLA. This is a really fun night exploring Japanese-American culture. There will be taiko (drumming), modern dance, drama, and odori (traditional dance) performances. These groups are university kids so they know how to have fun—every time I’ve seen them perform it has been a phenomenal experience.

It’s free and open to all so if you’re interested and can get to UCLA’s Royce Hall at 6:00pm on Presidents’ Day (February 16th), you can reserve tickets by sending an email with your name and number of tickets to

68th Annual Nisei Week has begun!

Nisei week is a festival occuring this week in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. If you’re in the area and looking for a good time, check it out—most of it is free! I will be attending the REMIX concert on Saturday, and the Taiko Gathering on Sunday. UCLA’s Kyodo Taiko and NSU Modern will rock the house :D.