Musicians from Tokyo will perform at the festival Oct. 26 at 7:30 pm at the University of the Pacific's Faye Spanos Concert Hall. Pictured here, an artist plays the traditional Japanese instrument, the shô, a bamboo mouth organ.

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Arts and Culture

Grandson of early Pacific alumnus to keynote Pacific's Japanese Cultural Festival

Music, film, photography and ancient tea ceremony also featured at Pacific’s Fourth Japanese Festival
by Christopher HerediaOct 1, 2012

One of the earliest Japanese students at University of the Pacific, Sanji Muto, left an indelible mark on not only Pacific, but the world as well. He attended classes at the university in 1885-1886, 35 years after Pacific was founded, while the campus was located near San Jose. He was a foreign student and worked as a waiter on campus.  

Muto's beginnings were humble. But his success was soon to spring forth.

Muto's story is among many examples of rich Japanese life, in the Central Valley and beyond, on display during Pacific's Japanese Cultural Festival, during the month of October. Japanese musicians will play the bamboo mouth organ and the double-reed vertical flute; Conservatory music composition professor Robert Coburn and university archivists will curate stirring Japanese photography at the University library. There will be symposia, including a talk by Muto's grandson about Muto's business philosophy and his generous contributions to Pacific's library.

The festival kicked off on Oct. 1 with a month-long exhibit of contemporary Japanese photographers at the Reynolds Galley in the Jeannette Powell Art Center and in the Muto Room at the University Library.

A highlight of this year's festival will be a Japanese chanoyu or tea ceremony demonstrated by Terri Takahashi-Jain, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science and a certified instructor of tea Ceremony by the School of Omotesenke Fushinan of Kyoto, Japan. Takahashi-Jain's and tea practitioners from Northern California area participate in the delicate, deliberate display of movement and service to others on stage and audience members will be served tea Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m. in the Library Community Room.

This year's festival will feature the film, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," Oct. 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the Janet Leigh Theatre. The movie is a heartwarming story about a father coming to terms with his son's lack of desire to take on the family's wildly successful sushi business. There will also be a multimedia concert on Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Faye Spanos Concert Hall, titled "New Music for Gagaku instruments and video" by Professor Coburn, conceived of during his Fulbright residency in Tokyo (2011-2012).

Philip Gilbertson, former Pacific Provost, who is writing a history of Pacific, will give a talk Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Library Community Room with the theme, "Pacific and Its Japanese Students at the Turn of the Century." Following Gilbertson, Muto's grandson, Haruta Muto, will speak about his grandfather's legacy in business and at Pacific.

Japan's native son studies at Pacific, returns to his homeland a successful businessman

Sanji Muto returned to Japan after his studies at Pacific and went on to found the Kanebo company. He served in politics, worked as a journalist, helping revitalize the Jinji Shimpo newspaper, and was a respected calligraphist. He was lesser known for his involvement in facilitating Japanese immigration to Brazil during the 1920s and 1930s.

Traditional Japanese flute player to perform at University of the PacificA successful silk yarn producer in Japan and a donor at Pacific, he left a legacy that continues with his grandsons Haruta Muto and Kenji Yoshizawa. Yoshizawa a senior official with the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (BTM), the majority shareholder of Union Bank of California, presented in 2004 a gift to Pacific's library to reestablish the Muto Book Fund as an endowment.

His grandson Haruta Muto noted in a short book about Muto how impressed he was by the University's commitment to maintaining his grandfather's records from his time at Pacific. The younger Muto will speak about grandfather's business acumen and contributions to Pacific Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Library Community Room.

"I have learned that there were no more than 100 Japanese in California at the time Muto studied (at Pacific)," Haruta Muto wrote. "To me, the fact that the school welcomed a lone and nearly penniless Japanese student in a difficult situation, and moreover perfectly maintained his records for so many years in spite of the deterioration of relations between the two countries to a state of war, is a testimony to the openheartedness of the American people."

Finally, the festival will present two concerts featuring the members of the Japanese trio Autumn Winds performing on traditional Japanese instruments: the shô, a bamboo mouth organ, the hichiriki, a double-reed instrument, and the ryuteki,  a vertical flute. The multimedia concert will take place Oct. 26 at 7:30 pm in Faye Spanos Concert Hall.

Finally, a concert on Oct. 27 at 7:30 pm at Faye Spanos Concert Hall will feature traditional gagaku music.

Traditional tea ceremony to demonstrate tranquility and connection with nature

The tea ceremony Takahashi-Jain will lead Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m. in the Library Community Room traces back 450 years.

"I turned to tea in teaching Japanese language because I grew up with it," said Takahashi-Jain, a second generation chanoyu teacher. "If you want to know the history, art, culture, or politics of Japan, you have to know the ceremony of tea. There is a saying, 'Within movement, there is stillness and within stillness there is movement.' It is profound when you observe the ceremony and think about it. Within the confines of rules, we find more freedom. For an Introduction to Chanoyu, visit: http://www.pacific.edu/Academics/Professional-and-Continuing-Education/Programs/Register-Now/courses/Introduction-to-Chanoyu.html

"It teaches you respect for nature, for self, for the ancestors," she said. "It is a symbol of tranquility within one's life and in space and nature. It is difficult to teach as with any art form. You just have to keep doing it to get better, like classic ballet or playing the piano."

Festival connects to San Joaquin County's vibrant Japanese American community

It is by careful design that Pacific will be hosting the fourth Japanese Festival of Music and Culture since 2008, Takahashi and Conservatory Professor Francois Rose said. The San Joaquin Valley is home to thousands of Japanese Americans, devoted to both their culture in Japan and in the United States, to education and passing along the value of professional success to their children and grandchildren.

"Stockton is a microcosm of the United States; 22 percent of our population is Asian American," said Francois Rose, professor of music composition and a Japanese scholar, who helped organize the event. "This is our way to be partner with our community. If we want our students to have a better understanding of the broader world, then we must offer them a glimpse of the international. We must bring it to them. Art is how you begin making that first connection."

The cultural festival is underwritten by the Pacific Arts and Lecture Series and with generous support by ASUop, the School of Engineering, the Conservatory of Music, the University Library and the Arts Department.

The festival began Monday with photo exhibits in the Reynolds Gallery at the Janet Powell Art Center and in the Muto Room at the University Library. The Muto Lecture Series will take place Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Library Community Room. At 8:30 that night, the festival will feature the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Janet Leigh Theatre. The festival continues Oct. 26 with a lecture by the Gagaku trio Autumn Wind, who will explain their culture and music. At 7:30 that night, the group will perform "Kaze no Yume," an instrumental multimedia extravaganza with Conservatory Professor Robert Coburn.

The tea ceremony will take place Oct. 27 at 4:30 in the Library community room.  The festival will conclude that evening with a concert of traditional Gagaku music, 7:30 p.m. Faye Spanos Concert Hall.

Most events are free and open to the public with the exception of the multimedia concert on Oct. 26 and the concert of Gagaku music on Oct. 27. (Tickets for those shows are $8 general admission and $5 for seniors). For more information, visit go.Pacific.edu/japanesefestival.