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Cultural Event

Washington, DC

National Cherry Blossom Festival 2024 Opening Ceremony

March 23, 5pm ET
Warner Theatre (Washington, DC) & Online


The Japan Foundation (JF) is delighted to bring three popular artist groups to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., U.S.A. They will be performing at the opening of the festival, to pay tribute to the longstanding friendship between Japan and the United States. We hope that the spectacular performances bring new interests to wide genre of Japanese performing arts.

This year, we have invited Naotaro Moriyama, Jo Kanamori, and Kaoru Watanabe to present at the opening ceremony. There will be a special concert by Naotaro Moriyama to be held at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art on March 22nd from 7-8pm (ET). Acclaimed New York-based composer and instrumentalist Kaoru Watanabe will bring his signature skill of infusing Japanese culture with disparate styles to create an engrossing performance of music that is melodic, authentic, and engaging.

Choreographer and dancer Jo Kanamori, general artistic director of Noism Company Niigata, will bring his abundant oversees experience to direct and choreograph a piece that will debut at the Opening Ceremony, and feature dancers from DC’s own The Washington Ballet Company. And lastly, fresh off his nationwide tour of one hundred different venues in Japan, celebrating his 20th anniversary as a performer, Naotaro Moriyama will take to the Warner Theatre stage with his unique vocalization that has been praised by all generations of music lovers.

Audiences across the globe are also invited to join in this unique cultural celebration via Livestream on the Festival’s YouTube Channel.

This event is co-presented with The Japan Foundation and the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Artists

Naotaro Moriyama
Born on April 23rd, 1976, in Tokyo. Mr. Moriyama is a folk singer and songwriter. He made his professional debut in October 2002 through a mini album titled “Dried Songs are the Best Foods to Feed Fishes”. Since then, the originality of his point of view as well as his unique vocalization have been well praised by all generations of music lovers. He never stopped releasing new albums and actively touring around nationwide. In recent years, he has also expanded his activities including acting, making appearances in NHK Saturday dramas such as “Kokoro no Kizu wo Iyasu to Iu Koto” and NHK’s serial TV novel “Yell”, for which he was highly praised for his acting ability. Mr. Moriyama released his 20th Anniversary album “Wonderful World” in March 2022. Starting in June of the same year, he embarked on his 20th Anniversary Tour titled “Wonderful World”, which was also called “100 Tours in Japan”. He concluded the tour in October 2023, but now an “extra” portion of the tour is underway. His most recent tour, “Wonderful World” in Ryogoku Kokugikan, is scheduled to be held on March 16, 2024. In January 2023, he released his first acoustic album “Original Painting I” and “Original Painting II”. He also released “Samoarinan (There You Are and Here It Comes)” which is the theme song for the movie “Lost Care” released in theaters in March. In October, the “Wonderful World” tour will have its final performance at NHK Hall in Tokyo. He was also commissioned for the theme song of animated TV series by Moyoko Anno titled “Ochibisan”; whose broadcasting started in October 2023. It is scheduled to be released on January 31, 2024, along with an analog release of this work on February 28 of the same year.

Jo Kanamori
Choreographer, Dancer. General Artistic director of Noism Company Niigata. Moved to Europe when he was 17 years old, he studied under Maurice Béjart and others. He began creating while studying at Rudra Béjart School Lausanne and made his debut as choreographer at the age of 20 while enrolled in NDT2. After ten years of playing an active part as dancer and choreographer for several dance companies in Europe, he returned to Japan. In April 2004, he was appointed as artistic director of the Dance Division of RYUTOPIA, and established Noism, Japan’s first residential dance company of a public theater. He has won many awards, including the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award for Artistic Encouragement, and the Niigata Nippo Culture Award both in 2008, and the 60th Mainichi Art Award. He received the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2021.

The Washington Ballet
Discover The Washington Ballet (TWB), where a rich history of artistic excellence meets a steadfast commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. TWB supports a mission to bring the joy and artistry of dance to the heart of the nation’s capital and into the streets of the DC community. As ambassadors of classical and contemporary ballet, TWB not only present performances of the highest caliber but also nurture the next generation of dancers through its distinguished school (The Washington School of Ballet). Beyond the stage and studio, the organizations extend its embrace to the entire community, fostering a love for dance through extensive education programs and meaningful community engagement initiatives. Follow The Washington Ballet on a journey where passion, precision, and purpose converge to create a dance experience that transcends boundaries and captivates the soul.

Kaoru Watanabe
Acclaimed New York-based composer and instrumentalist Kaoru Watanabe’s melodic, authentic, and engaging music focuses on points of connection: the joints between Western jazz and Eastern traditional, Japanese theater and political action, the ancient and the all-too-contemporary. Born into a musical family, Watanabe began training at a young age, eventually studying jazz at the Manhattan School of Music, before devoting a decade overseas as the first American performer and artistic director of the world-renowned taiko drum performance group KODO. While in Japan, Watanabe worked with elite Japanese artists, such as National Living Treasures Bando Tamasaburo and Tosha Meisho, and calligrapher Kakinuma Koji, and studied, performed, and practiced traditional folk dance and song, tea-ceremony, Kyogen opera, and agriculture. These experiences profoundly influence Watanabe’s practice to this day. Since returning to New York, his signature skill of infusing Japanese culture with disparate styles has made him a much-in-demand collaborator. Watanabe’s impressive list of creative works across different media reflects his ever-curious ear and wandering eye. He has collaborated with iconic, groundbreaking artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yo-Yo Ma, Laurie Anderson, Jason Moran, Rhiannon Giddens, flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena, and Alicia Hall Moran. He was an advisor and featured musician on Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack for Isle of Dogs and a guest on Silkroad’s Grammy Award-winning album Sing Me Home. He has been commissioned to compose and arrange for such ensembles as Sydney Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Silkroad. His works have been performed in Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Kabukiza, Théâtre du Châtelet, the Sydney Opera House, and venues across five continents.

Visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival for more information.

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