This past December, the NCCBF Organizing Committee and community were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and dedicated member, Toyomi Tanaka. As part of the NCCBF Japan Groups Committee, Toyomi san helped coordinate artists from Japan to perform in the final weekend of the NCCBF. The group’s efforts enrich the Festival’s program, and their members ensure that all participants are cared for during their weekend in San Francisco.
Toyomi san has been with the Japan Groups Committee since 1981! She is known for being a hard worker and is affectionately considered one of the Committee’s behind-the-scenes secret weapon, or “kuroko” in Japanese (which describes stagehands dressed in black). She was an influential organizer of the Children’s Tsuzumi Challenge, which is an after-school program run by NPO Infusion that teaches elementary school students to play the drum at the Clarendon School in San Francisco and Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito. During the Grand Parade, Toyomi san would walk alongside various Japan Groups from the City Hall to Fillmore Street to ensure their safety and attend to their needs. She would then u-turn back to the City Hall to accompany the next set of Japan Groups, continuing this for at least three times in the course of the two-hour parade!
Seiko Fujimoto, the lead of the Japan Groups Committee, shared a memorable scene from the 50th annual festival, when we were met with heavy rains. The final participants from Japan were last in the Grand Parade line up. Even though everyone was soaking wet in the pouring rain, Toyomi san kept a huge smile the entire time and enjoyed seeing this last group make their walk from City Hall to Japantown. She was proud to be a member of the various NCCBF committees and it was apparent to everyone around her. We cherish her friendship and miss her dearly. We will continue to emulate her spirit in our festival efforts.