Late James A. Gatlin Black & White Photography

Excerptt from his November 2002 Day Book

Here is an image from my just concluded session with Madame Kikusa san at the Japanese American Cultural Center, (JACC). I guess for the sake of search engine indexing, I should mention that her name is actually Mikko Haggott Henson.

Kikusa san is not only a very talented performer and teacher, she is also a tireless advocate of traditional Japanese performing arts and community activist. Among her many community credits, she is the founding President of the Torrance California Sister City Association, ( Kashiwa & Torrance), and President of the Japanese Traditional Performing Arts Organization, (JTPAO). Additionally, she has received numerous awards, such as ‘Volunteer of the Year, 1980′, ‘Woman of the Year 1986′ and ‘Woman of the History of Torrance, 1988′ and far too many others to list here.

While founding a successful sister city program is a monumental feat in and of itself, it is her position with the JTPAO that drew my attention to her. Established in 1992, the JTPAO seeks to preserve and promote the appreciation of Japanese performing arts such as classical dance, theatre, kabuki, nagauta, koto and shamisen in the United States. Each of these disciplines have long been favored subjects of my work. When I first read about Kikusa san in a local newspaper several months back, I recall thinking to myself that here is a person I needed to meet somehow. Shortly after I began work with Wakana Hanayagi, Kikusa san walked into the class, and much to my delight, an introduction was made.

During some of our recent sessions, I have only briefly chatted with Kikusa san about the JTPAO, and her work within the group. But this past Wednesday, we had a chance to talk about the organization in a little more detail. Shortly after I brought up the topic, (I hope I am not speaking about this prematurely, or in an otherwise inappropriate manner), she caught me completely by surprise with an offer. She said that one of her board members had recently passed away, creating a vacant position. She indicated that she had been considering asking a non-Japanese person who was interested in the organization’s work to fill the vacancy. While I watched and listened to her ask me this, I could hardly believe my ears as she asked me if I was interested.

It took me a fraction of a millisecond to think it over…yes! Of course! MOCHI LONG! Please! Yes! I’d be honored, thrilled, it would be my pleasure… did I forget to say YES!!!

Naturally, such an invitation, and such a position within the Japanese performing arts community would be an incredible opportunity for me personally, and for my work. The possibilities are endless. The opportunity to document and record the efforts of the artists and performers associated with Kikusa san and the JTPAO are staggering. I was at the time, and still am, overwhelmed by her kind offer, and I am looking forward to talking with her in greater detail soon. I am incredibly pleased that she would even think of offering me a small role in her organization. Thank you, and did I mention, my answer is YES!