Patrons wandering into the downtown Bremerton Library this week got a little taste of Japanese culture.
Special guest Mary Mariko Ohno, a transplant from Tokyo, Japan, filled a small portion of the library with Japanese music, chants, singing and dances for onlookers. Ohno, who owns a dance studio in Tacoma, visited Bremerton for the first time on Monday afternoon.
Bremerton resident Erick Painter brought his two boys to the event for some exposure to a different culture. Painter spent some time as an exchange student in Hiroshima as a young adult.
“I really like to share it with them,” Painter said of the Japanese culture.
Painter and others sat on the floor as Ohno and three of her dance students performed different dance routines and songs. For one special number Ohno and two students performed on the shamisen — a three-string musical instrument — and played the familiar tune from the Mario Brothers video game.
Ohno’s dancers also brought out scripts with easy Japanese songs and encouraged the audience to sing along. Ohno sang a verse and then asked audience members to mimic her, allowing for a playful atmosphere that left most kids bobbing their heads to and fro.
Dances special to the Japanese culture dotted the hour-long performance by Ohno and her students. At the end, she encouraged the youngest library visitors to get up and dance with her.
“All the little ones were so happy,” Ohno said.
Some in the audience weren’t just lucky to have wandered upon the event, presented by Kabuki Academy.One parent of a dancer follows the troupe from city to city.
Eric Dennison of Silverdale, has trailed behind his daughter, Ariel, 18, from Tacoma to Kingston for the last year and a half she’s been involved with Ohno’s studio. She’s even learning some Japanese.
“She’s really into it,” he said of his daughter, whose Japanese stage name is Akina.
Once a month, they travel around to attend performances, some with audiences as large as 4,000 people, Dennison said. Ever the proud dad, Dennison brings along his camcorder and camera.
“It’s amazing. I can’t take enough pictures,” he said. “It’s really neat when we walk through an area and she gets stopped to take a photo with someone.”