Decades later, Japan’s gift to Americans is still vibrant

Each time people attend concerts, plays and other performances at the Terrace Theater in Washington, they are reminded of the generosity of the government of Japan and its people.

In recognition of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, the Japanese presented Americans with a $3 million check to build this theater on the roof level of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Terrace has undergone a yearlong renovation, and during the October and November season celebrates its reopening with artwork and performances that pay tribute to Japan.

Music and dance

Woman playing koto (Margot Schulman)
The koto, Japan’s national musical instrument, has 13 strings that adjust to change pitch and are plucked with three finger picks. (Margot Schulman)

“Japanese Connections” on October 18 featured two groundbreaking Japanese artists: tap dancer Kazunori Kumagai and musician Yumi Kurosawa, an acclaimed soloist on the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument.

“I am very honored to be part of this special evening,” said Kurosawa. “The Terrace Theater shows what can be done when two countries share a fondness of the arts.” The Terrace is the Kennedy Center’s fourth and smallest venue, with under 500 seats. It offers an intimate setting with superior acoustics.

Rows of theater seats (Scott Suchman)
The interior of the newly renovated Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center, photographed in October 2017. (Scott Suchman)

Textile art

Woman standing by large, opened paper fan (Margot Schulman)
Japanese textile artist Reiko Sudo brings her “Fantasy in Japan Blue” exhibit to the main hall of the Kennedy Center. (Margot Schulman)

To coincide with the theater’s renovation, Japanese textile artist Reiko Sudo is showing her work in the main hall of the Kennedy Center’s first level.

For “Fantasy in Japan Blue,” Sudo has mounted fabric on 115 oversized, open fans. Each fan is dyed to correspond to one of 46 shades of Japanese indigo, a natural dye derived from plants. The number is Sudo’s commemoration of the 46 years of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, for whom the center is named.

The open fans, which will be on display through November 12, symbolize “widespread” good fortune and exhibit the Japanese art of folding.