top of page


Learn more about our artists below:

An important aspect of AIRMW is that we are an artist-run and artist- supported organization. Many of our performers and staff members have practices both through and in addition to our work through AIRMW.

We also have many local, national, and international collaborators from the creative and traditional music scenes. 

Program Artist
Tatsu Shamisen Portrait

Tatsu Aoki is a composer, a performer of traditional and experimental music forms, a filmmaker, and an educator. He was born in 1958 into the Toyoakimoto artisan family, and performing by the age of four. In the early 1970s, Aoki was active in Tokyo’s underground arts movement with experimental arts and music. In 1977, Aoki left Tokyo and is now one of the most in-demand performers of bass, shamisen, and taiko, contributing to more than ninety recording projects and touring internationally over the last 35 years. He is noted for being the longest associated bassist for the late Chicago legend Fred Anderson.

Aoki has initiated and managed several programs to advance the understanding of traditional arts and community through the arts, including the annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, the Tsukasa Taiko Legacy, and the Toyoaki Shamisen arts residency projects. The concept of Legacy is very prominent in all of Aoki’s music and projects. He insists on demonstrating the authenticity of the Japanese Legacy using traditional instruments such as shamisen and taiko, especially with newer contemporary applications. He performs throughout the Chicagoland, the Midwest areas, and nationally, the driving point is to instill the importance of Legacy through in-house programs Tsukasa Taiko and Toyoaki Shamisen and his end of year Taiko Legacy production. These and other projects are all components and examples of his drive to establish artist guided community participation as well as projects that have exclusive artist involvement, which raise the bar for quality and awareness of the Japanese cultural arts here in Chicago.
 He continues to be based in Chicago, working internationally in a wide range of musical genres including Japanese traditional music, experimental, and creative jazz, his collaborative projects ranging from puppetry, neoclassical Japanese dance, and experimental dance films. For more information visit:

Kioto Aoki Nidan

Kioto Aoki is an artist, educator and musician born into the performing tradition as 5th generation of the Toyoakimoto family.
 Aoki is also the 5th generation of the Toyoakimoto house, an okiya (geisha house) performing arts family from Tokyo with roots dating back to the Edo period. Her father, Tatsu Aoki (Toyoaki Sanjuro), is 4th generation the house. Aoki continues this family lineage in Chicago in both traditional okiya and contemporary musical contexts, as a taiko artist and as Toyoaki Chitose (豊秋千東勢) for shamisen. Her musical practice maintains a balance of retaining the artistic and aesthetic integrity of traditional Japanese music with a musical flexibility that extends beyond the measures of cultural preservation. Aoki is also a visual artist, whose studio practice navigates various mechanisms and propositions of spatial and visual acuity, applying the vernacular of conceptual photography and experimental cinema. For more information visit:

Fujima Yoshinojo Photo

Fujima Yoshinojo (a.k.a. Rika Lin), studied under Fujima Shunojo and is a shin-nisei, a part of postwar Japanese American diaspora, an interdisciplinary performing artist, choreographer, and a Grandmaster in Fujima style Japanese classical dance. Her choreography, which stems from traditional pedagogy, lulls people into believing what at first appears to be a traditional Japanese dance but is in fact a transgression filled with subtle expressions of humor and protest. Yoshinojo blends traditional aesthetics with contemporary music and movement practices to make dance pieces relevant with 21st century ideas of roles and identity. For more information visit:

Noriko Sugiyama earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Keihin Women’s University in March 1985. Upon graduation, she started her career as a professional teacher at various public schools specializing in music education. In the early 90’s, Noriko became interested in traditional taiko performance and joined Ayutsubo Daiko, a local taiko preservation and performance group in Shizuoka, Japan. Through training and studies at Ayutsubo Daiko, Tsukasa Taiko, and the Japan Taiko Federation for nearly twenty years, she became an expert taiko performer and instructor. In 2009, Noriko first performed with Tsukasa Taiko in the “Taiko Legacy 6” concert. In addition, combining her teaching skills and knowledge of historical and cultural aspects of taiko, Ms. Sugiyama has become an outstanding lecturer on taiko history and an expert trainer on all aspects of authentic taiko performance, from playing to vocalizing to costuming. As International Residency Performer and Instructor of Tsukasa Taiko, Noriko travels back and forth between the U.S. and Japan, maintaining the link to Japanese cultural tradition fundamental to our mission.


Fujima Ikunojo is a Chicago-area native and Japanese American, and received her training from Fujima Shunojo. She has attained her professional name, natori, and teacher’s license, (shihan), and has been a contributing member participating in community performances and the annual student recitals of the Shubukai dance troupe for over 30 years.




Mwata Bowden · Ed Wilkerson Jr. · Micheal Zerang · Hamid Drake · Nicole Mitchell · JoVia Armstrong · Coco Elysses

Douglas R. Ewart · Dee Alexander · Melody Takata · Francis Wong · Lenora Lee · Chizuru Kineya · Hyakkyou Fukuhara

Koryu Nishikawa V · Yasushi Shimazaki · Shijuro Tachibana · Sennosuke Wakatsuki · Kizan Kawamura · Mai Sugimoto

Yoko Reikano Kimura · Dohee Lee · Ayako Kato · and more.

Staff Artist




Fujima Shunojo earned his professional name at an early age. He opened his own school of classical dance and taught for several years in Tokyo before coming to the United States; first, on tour with a classical dance troupe, and later, permanently. For the past 40 years, grandmaster Shunojo sensei has directed his own dance group in Chicago. And in 2011, Grandmaster Fujima Shunojo received the Japan America Society Cultural Achievement Award for his continuing work in traditional Japanese classical dance, and in 2013 he received the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation Award for his ongoing work in the United States promoting Japanese culture through teaching and performing Japanese Classical Dance; in addition to the annual recitals, Fujima Shunojo and his dancers perform for various civic and cultural groups, colleges/universities and various festivals in and around the Chicago and Mid-west area. Fujima Shunojo passed away in April 2024.

bottom of page