Production Team

Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto                                      Executive Producer                                                            koto musician, teacher, band leader, filmmaker, producer

Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto is a fourth generation American of Japanese descent who has played the koto for over 60 years. Muramoto has dedicated herself to the art and sound of the Japanese koto.  In striving to spread the art of koto music, she often works with artists of diverse genres of music and art while respecting the tradition and techniques of the koto. Muramoto graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s in Japanese in 1976, and in the same year, she made her first trip to Japan to train for her “Shihan” teaching credential on the koto.  She attained the degree with “Yushusho” honors from the Chikushi School in Fukuoka, Japan. She earned her “Dai Shihan” Master’s degree from the same school in 2000 for her dedication to the koto.

Muramoto has been teaching private students for over 50 years, and has offered classes in koto music at public schools and at universities, including teaching koto to students at UC Berkeley for seven years. Through her group, the Murasaki Ensemble, Muramoto has shown the versatility of the koto, performing world jazz, western classical and contemporary koto music. Because she also learned violin and guitar during her school years, she is able to bridge eastern and western styles through her compositions and arrangements of world, pop and original songs.

Muramoto became the first koto performer from outside of Japan to qualify for the prestigious Kenjun Koto Competition in 2018. In 2012, Muramoto was inducted into the Bunka Hall of Fame by the Hokka Nichibei Kai Japanese American Cultural Association of America for her life-long dedication to teaching and performing on the Japanese koto.

Muramoto’s koto influences include masters Chikushi Katsuko (founder of the Chikushi Kai, Sawai Kazue of the Sawai Soukyokuin, June Kuramoto of the Hiroshima Band, and eclectic composer and performer Eto Kimio. Because of Muramoto’s ability to play a variety of styles on the koto, she has performed for many notable people and celebrities. She has also performed at many eclectic events, such as The 50th Anniversary of San Francisco Peace Treaty (Treaty of Peace with Japan); the State of the World Forum hosted by Mikael Gorbachev; the first Sumo Basho in the U.S.; Asian American Jazz Festival in Chicago, the 100th Anniversary of SF Japantown, the 50th anniversary of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and the Wakamatsu Fest150. Muramoto has performed at numerous community events, including Cherry Blossom Festivals in San Francisco and Cupertino, Bon festivals in Oakland, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose, just to name a few. Muramoto has also provided music for commercials, films, corporate events, weddings, funerals, and birthdays, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Muramoto has performed or recorded with artists such as Madame Chikushi Katsuko, Latin jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo, Emmy-nominated bluegrass singer Laurie Lewis, Hawaiian taiko drummer Kenny Endo, folk and bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman, the Asia American Symphony led by Oscar-winning cinematic composer Maurice Jarre (“Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago”), Ethiopian pianist Elias Negash; and with the Sacramento, Fremont and Marin Symphony orchestras.  With the Murasaki Jazz Group, she has played jazz koto at the Fillmore Jazz Festival; the Union Street Jazz Fest; Napa Jazz Festival; Art & Soul in Oakland; Tapestry and Talent; at the AT&T Golf Tournament hosted by Clint Eastwood.  Recently, Muramoto was honored to perform at the Hengenjizai Concert with koto masters Kazue Sawai and Souju Nosaka.  Her favorite shakuhachi performers to collaborate with are masters Tachibana Shigeo and Kakizakai Kaoru.

Most of Muramoto’s life has been devoted to researching Japanese traditional performance arts in the World War II American concentration camps inspired by her mother having learned to play the koto as a child at Topaz and Tule Lake camps. In 2012, a National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites grant was awarded to her project, the documentary film, “Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Performing Arts in the World War II Internment Camps”, completed in June 2014.  Hidden Legacy has been shown nationally on public TV and PBS stations, and screened at numerous community showings and universities including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Wellesley, Brandeis and University of Massachusetts in Boston.  The film has also been screened in Japan at Tokyo Arts University, Nihon University, Waseda University, Musashino College of the Arts and Doshisha Women’s Universities.

The artists Muramoto interviewed for her research in connection with the practice of traditional Japanese arts in the WWII camps, inspired Muramoto to dedicate the rest of her life to promoting traditional arts in the United States and throughout the world. She continues to teach, lecture, demonstrate and perform in honor of those teachers who came before her.

Akiko K. Takashima Yarbrough                                                    Executive Director & Social Media

Akiko is a yonsei  who is committed to preserving Japanese culture and traditions for future generations.   She spends her time volunteering and leading community outreach programs while also homeschooling her children.  She currently sits on the volunteer Board of Directors at Daruma no Gakko and is Co-Director of the Japanese cultural summer program.   Akiko is also on the Parent Advisory Committee for the Holy Names Preparatory Music School and volunteers with Tsuru for Solidarity.  She previously supported the U.S. Department of State, Techwomen program as a Cultural Mentor, Impact Advisor, as well as sat on the Selection Committee.  She has a deep appreciation for music & cultural arts and hopes to pass that on to her children.

Ken Honjo                                                                                            Director- Producer- Videographer- Editor                              

Ken Honjo lives in Los Angeles, California and loves to make videos!  Among his accomplishments, he has directed shorts introducing the new Terasaki Budokan community center in Little Tokyo and has worked to produce a variety of shorts highlighting different artist and companies.

Ken Honjo is the creative talent behind the filmed production of the NextGen Geijutsuka concerts; including the special virtual Bon Odori segment.  He is also the director and producer of the “NextGen Geijutsuka: Future Stars of Japanese Cultural Arts” introduction video, and will be collaborating with Japanese businesses in the Bay Area to produce short clips highlighting them and ways we can support them during this pandemic.

Alex J. Sinclair  Streaming Media

With over 15 years of entrepreneurial leadership in creative services, strategic development, and media management, Alex J. Sinclair is an expert in enhancing organisational branding and optimizing brand assets through visual mediums.

Alex Sinclair’s passions include intellectual property rights, multimedia content management, and collaborative client services. Leveraging skills in these areas has spearheaded an organisational change for clients across American, European, and Japanese markets.   

Alex will be lending his expertise to the “NextGen Geijutsuka: Future Stars of Japanese Cultural Arts” concert series by overseeing the live streaming of these concerts.

Elaine Joe Graphic Arts-  EJoe Designs

Graphic designer, Elaine Joe has worked with the Bay Area Asian American community designing brochures, posters, programs and more for various organizations and events.  She has worked with Shirley on her creative projects over the past 20 years, and is honored to once again work with Shirley and her team for the upcoming online concert series “NextGen Geijutsuka: Future Stars of Japanese Cultural Arts.”

Robert C. Wong                                                                                    AV Technology Specialist

Robert C. Wong has been an audio visual coordinator, with experience working at UC Berkeley and other universities.  He has provided audio visual support at the St. Francis Hotel and other hotels in San Francisco for many years.

Bob has also worked with providing sound and equipment technical support for community events, including those held by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in downtown Oakland.  He has over forty years of experience  supervising the sound requirements for Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto, providing his technical expertise for her album recordings, koto performances, and Murasaki Ensemble concerts.