by June Kuramoto

Keeping Culture Alive

During my young life playing koto, growing up in the La Brea-Adams district, we were poor. My mother came from Japan to the US with four children ranging from 2 years to 7 years of age by herself and not speaking English! She struggled never complaining to make ends meet, but she did manage to let me have koto lessons. She arranged with my koto teacher Kazue Kudo to teach at our house in exchange for lessons for my two sisters and me. (Kudo Sensei (teacher) also had just come to the US with her husband and three boys, and was thinking about teaching in the Los Angeles area.)

Being only about seven years old, I did not know or understand economics. The students and parents’ resources for koto and accessories were mostly from the teacher or each other. Since my mother initially paid for the costs of koto, koto accessories and supplies, I was not aware of the high cost of everything related to koto was “imported” from Japan which meant expensive! That also included the kimonos and accessories we wore for all our koto recitals! Because of the high costs, many of us shared and/or borrowed hand-me-downs…and my mother was wonderfully amazing at making/sewing, fixing, improvising! She also learned to put on kimonos (dress us) from books and helped all of us at the many, many koto recitals & concerts dressing as many as she could!

What I’m trying to say is that to learn and keep traditions from another country here was difficult and still is! Without the love, devotion and passion my mother had for me and the Japanese culture, I don’t think I could have survived to continue as I had. It took all this and more to keep culture alive—and I am so grateful for all those who continue to preserve, expand and share their cultures to all of us, making this a better place for all of us with diversity, beauty, pride and depth.