Brazilian Tenrikyo Community Plays Role in 100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigration

One hundred years after the first Japanese immigrants arrived in 1908 on the ship Kasato Maru at the port of Santos, near São Paulo, the Japanese and Brazilian governments are holding a variety of events in both Brazil and Japan throughout this year to mark the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration. The fife and drum band of the Brazil chapter of Tenrikyo Boys and Girls Association took part in one such event, a commemorative parade held on June 21 in São Paulo, the largest city in South America. Attending the event was Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito, who is the honorary president of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year. The parade was followed by a ceremony that commenced when Tenrikyo followers lit a “flame of friendship” cauldron.

The parade and ceremony took place in São Paulo’s Sambadrome, a 530-meter (580-yard) street flanked by stands with a total capacity of 30,000. After demonstrations of Ryukyu dancing and karate among other things, the 335-strong fife and drum band led the parade, which altogether comprised some 17,000 participants. At the head of the band was a banner reading “YOOKI GURASHI,” or “the Joyous Life.”

That was the first time all the members of the band had performed together, since they live in various parts of the country. Prior to the parade, therefore, Mr. Katsumi Ishii, the bandleader, was not entirely free from worry–although, in addition to regular practice and various performances in different local communities, special practice sessions led by fife and drum band specialists from the Boys and Girls Association Headquarters had been held in Bauru, São Paulo, and Parana in May last year. His worry was unfounded. The members performed splendidly with their heads held high in front of cheering and clapping spectators. At the finish line, their faces beamed with broad smiles. Mr. Ishii shed tears of joy and gratitude at the band’s impressive performance on that vitally important occasion as he recalled the difficult times that his predecessors had endured.

The “flame of friendship” that was carried into the venue at the start of the ceremony had been lit on April 28 this year in the Japanese port of Kobe to mark the day the Kasato Maru departed from Kobe. After arriving at Santos, the flame was relayed between many runners from various ethnic backgrounds, celebrating Brazil’s multi-ethnic population. The bearers who had the prestigious honor of lighting the flame cauldron were Brasil Yamashiro Church’s former head minister Saburo Onishi, his wife, and their grandson Yuta, whose ancestors include one of the first Japanese immigrants who arrived in Brazil 100 years ago.

With Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in Brazil cooperating closely with the organizing committee of the commemorative events, some 450 followers also performed behind-the-scenes volunteer work to help run that day’s events. In addition, a group of 15 Tenrikyo gagaku musicians performed three pieces during a Japanese concert held on June 18 at the Anhembi International Convention Center. Also, as part of the celebrations, the mission headquarters invited University of Tsukuba Professor Emeritus Kazuo Murakami to speak at nine venues between June 7 and 16. His lectures, entitled “How to Awaken Your Good Genes,” were attended by a total of 4,000 people.

Reflecting on the roles the Brazilian Tenrikyo community played in marking the centennial, Bishop Yuji Murata of the mission headquarters says: “I see the opportunity given to the fife and drum band as one of the fruits of the tremendous hard work of our predecessors who devoted themselves to spreading the teachings in Brazil. Our involvement in this year’s celebrations will provide a springboard for significantly boosting our work in preparing for the 60th anniversary of the mission headquarters due in three years.”

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