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Eulogy from a Fellow Dancer

by on March 26, 2011

My name is Grace Mizushima and I’ve known Satomi and her family for almost 40 years.  Our friendship started back in the early 1970’s when Satomi, her sisters and brother started “odori” or Japanese Classical Dance with Madam Hanayagi Tokuyae, our teacher or “oshosan” as we called her.

Satomi started dancing at a very young age and from the very beginning you could see that she had natural talent.  Because of her petite size, she literally looked like a little doll whenever she got dressed up in her kimono and put her make-up on.  Seeing her beautiful daughters today, reminds me of how cute and small she was when I first met her.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Japanese Classical Dance world, we basically had to learn a dance by watching and copying our teacher during lessons.  We then continue to practice each dance until we have memorized and mastered the dance well enough to perform it on stage.  As you can well imagine, no matter how prepared you are, sometimes your nerves get to you when you are performing and then you forget a step or two.  However, this rarely happened to Satomi.  She was usually the one we would go to if we forgot a certain step or move.

Our odori group was like a family because we would see each other quite often, not only at practice but at the various events and shows that we had to perform at.  In the early years we were lucky to dance at Disneyland and Dodger stadium.  During the summer, our tradition was to dance at the various kenjinkai picnics and Satomi and I were frequently paired up to dance together.  We also used to dance in the Nisei Week parade every year, and many times during the latter years of our oshosan’s career it became difficult for her to walk the whole parade route, so since Satomi and I were one of the remaining active Natori’s, we were many times asked to lead the group down the parade route.

Unfortunately, after our oshosan passed away in 2006, we have not had the chance to continue dancing and so we have not been able to see each other as much as we used to, except for each other’s weddings, baby showers and children’s birthday parties.  In fact, I had the privilege of dancing at Satomi and Sean’s wedding.

I was lucky to have had a chance to visit with Satomi in early February with my sister Kathy and friend  Noriko who also danced with Satomi and the last thing she said to us was, “I’m going to get better so that we can dance together again real soon.”

Although I am sad and heartbroken to lose a dear friend, I am glad that Satomi can now continue her dancing again with oshosan.


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