UH Manoa music lecturer awarded prestigious Japanese decoration

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: May 6, 2009

The Reverend Masatoshi Shamoto, a longtime University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa music lecturer, will be conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays by the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs. The awards ceremony will be held in Tokyo on May 13, 2009, after which Reverend Shamoto and other Order recipients will have an audience with the Emperor of Japan.

Reverend Shamoto has taught gagaku, court music of Japan, at the UH Mānoa Department of Music for more than 40 years. The Order is one of the most prestigious Japanese decorations, equivalent to the degree of Knighthood of a European Order.

The awarding of the Order is administered by the Awards and Decoration Agency under the Cabinet and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Born in 1934 into a family of Tenrikyo ministers in the Aichi prefecture in Japan, Reverend Shamoto was exposed to gagaku from the time he was born. He arrived in Hawaii in 1959 as a cultural missionary for his church and began teaching gagaku to Tenrikyo followers.

In 1962, at the invitation of UH Mānoa Professor Emeritus Barbara Smith, Reverend Shamoto began teaching gagaku on campus. In 1968, he formed the Hawaii Gagaku Kenkyukai, a community-based group that meets weekly on campus to study and practice gagaku.

Besides arranging community performances—including ceremonies at various shrines, temples and the Japanese consulate—Reverend Shamoto established the tradition of "moon viewing" concerts held in the spring and fall at UH Mānoa. He and his students were invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institution‘s 1997 Festival of American Folk Life in Washington, D.C., representing Japanese spiritual music.

In 1999, 2000 and 2001, Reverend Shamoto was formally recognized as a gagaku master through the Folk Arts Program of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

At the invitation of Professor Robert Guenther, Reverend Shamoto taught the first gagaku class ever offered in Europe at the University of Cologne in 2000. The following year, he returned to Cologne and co-founded the Cologne Gagaku Kai.

In 2004, a year commemorating 150 years of U.S.-Japan relations, Reverend Shamoto was awarded a Certificate of Commendation from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The award recognized his efforts in preserving Japanese art and culture, and promoting goodwill between the U.S. and Japan.