• Kyodo

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A tea ceremony master and a traditional Ryukyuan dancer are among six people chosen to represent and promote Japanese arts and culture abroad for fiscal 2020 and 2021, the Cultural Affairs Agency said Thursday.

Tea master Sotatsu Ota, 63, along with Maki Shida, 50, who specializes in Okinawa’s traditional Ryukyuan dance, and four others, have been selected as Japan Cultural Envoys. Although their appointment usually lasts for one year, it was extended to two due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ota is known for his expertise in tea and wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets, and in the cultural aspects of Kyoto. He will host tea ceremonies in Europe and Asia and also organize events with researchers there, according to the agency.

Shida will present the Ryukyuan dance and Okinawan culture mainly in North America, it said.

The four other cultural envoys are calligraphy performance artist Juichi Yoshikawa, 77, choreographer Akiko Kitamura, 49, flute musician Tosha Suiho, 41, and digital artist Yoichi Ochiai, 33.

All selected envoys are expected to be sent abroad from fiscal 2021, which will begin next April, depending on the situation in regards to the pandemic. In the meantime, they will conduct promotion activities online.

The agency began appointing envoys in fiscal 2003, and as of fiscal 2019 had dispatched a total of 143 people and 26 organizations to 88 countries. It covers all the costs of their travel and accommodation.

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