HISTORY of the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival
The first Greater Kansas City Japan Festival was held on September 13, 1997, on the campus of the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Dr. Andrew Tsubaki was the first chairperson of the Japan Festival Committee. At that time there was a Japanese Consulate in Kansas City that was led by Consul General Tatsuo Tanaka. Consul General Tanaka was the driving force behind starting the first festival.
In 2004 the festival was moved to the Johnson County Community College where it is still held today. The 2023 GKCJF will be the seventeenth festival held on the campus of Johnson County Community College.
Passing of Consul General Tatsuo Tanaka
Consul General Tatsuo Tanaka (in center) and Mrs. Eri Tanaka (in pink kimono) at the Emperor's Birthday Reception at the KC Official Residence, December 4, 1998
It is with a heavy heart that we just learned about the passing of Consul General Tatsuo Tanaka. For HAJAS, the Festival was one of the Consul General Tanaka's great accomplishments and enduring legacies. Mr. Tanaka was a great friend of Mrs. Miyo Wagner, one of the founders of the Heart of America Japan America Society and the founder of the Japanese Language Festival that she organized annually at Rockhurst University where she taught Japanese for many years. This festival was one of the largest and most widely-recognized events related to Japan in Kansas City.
When Mr. Tanaka arrived at his post as Consul General of Japan at Kansas City, he recognized that there were many diverse and scattered Japanese-related organizations in the greater Kansas City region, and he talked with Miyo Wagner about bringing all of these organizations together under one umbrella to celebrate US-Japan friendship and understanding. Miyo thought that this would be a wonderful idea, and with the leadership of the Heart of America Japan America Society, Consul General Tanaka hosted a meeting in 1996 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Crown Center for all of these organizations to get together to organize the event that is now known as the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival.
With deep gratitude and sadness, Consul General Tanaka will be missed.