Yumiko Uyeno was recently installed as Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii’s new president. Also installed as officers were vice presidents Keiko Akamine and Mary Yanagihara; secretaries Pamela Honbo and Mariko Dotzler and treasurer Diane Tokumaru.
Uyeno, who is a Hiroshima native, began studying koto at the age of 5 under Grandmaster Yoshiko Mihara of the Ikuta School. She attained the title of Jun Shihan (assistant teacher) when she was just 15 years old and got active in the koto community in the Chugoku, or the Western Honshu, region of Japan.
Uyeno settled in Hawai‘i in 1965 and began playing with Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii in 1995. She also served as the group’s vice president for many years, helping to plan events such as Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii’s 25th and 30th anniversary concerts.
Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii was established in 1985 with Makiko Goto as its first instructor and Dr. Bernice Kisako Hirai, Ph.D., as its first president. Former Judge Katsugo Miho, UH ethnomusicology professor Dr. Ricardo Trimillos and William Feltz of the East-West Center were trustees of the Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii. At the time, Hirai was studying koto under Kazue Mikami-Sensei in the University of Hawai‘i’s ethnomusicology program.
Sawai Koto Kai Hawaii is the first overseas school of Sawai Koto, whose roots are with the Sawai Sokyoku-In in Tökyö, also known as the Sawai Koto Academy. The academy was founded by Tadao Sawai and his wife Kazue. Their son, Hikaru, perpetuates the school’s legacy today.