NEW YORK – Yuriko Kikuchi received the Foreign Minister’s Commendation on Wednesday at the Japanese consul general’s residence in New York for her lifelong contribution to promoting mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States.
“Since her first dance steps as a 7-year-old in San Jose, continuing on in Japan, she has been harmonizing the lessons received in both countries,” Shigeyuki Hiroki, ambassador and consul general of Japan in New York, said in his remarks during a ceremony attended by about 70 people.
“This is what Ms. Kikuchi brought to Martha Graham when Ms. Kikuchi came to New York City as a young dancer, after being released from a World War II internment camp,” he said.
Kikuchi, who turns 93 on Saturday, was honored for her incorporation of Japanese philosophy and Zen Buddhist values into productions of the Martha Graham Dance Company while she was a principal dancer of the famed group in 1944.
Founded in 1926 by Martha Graham, the prestigious New York-based dance company has featured and trained many prominent dancers, such as current principal dancer Miki Orihara, also of Japanese descent. Orihara offered the toast in honor of Kikuchi, who taught her in the past.
The Foreign Ministry also highlighted Kikuchi’s role in the dissemination of Japanese culture to the American people during her tenure as a teacher at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, beginning in 1945.
Known by the stage name “Yuriko,” the California-born Kikuchi was interned with other Japanese-Americans at an Arizona relocation camp. She taught dance there, later going on to perform in several Broadway musicals, including “The King and I” and the “Flower Drum Song.”