View Full Version : Helen Nakano Sensei - Awarded "Order of the Rising Sun"

Nathan Scott
26th June 2009, 19:27
On April 29th, 2009, the Government of Japan announced the recipients of its Spring 2009 meritorious service towards Japan decorations. Our own Helen Nakano Sensei in Southern California was among the recipients listed!

Following is the announcement posting from our local consulate:

Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles (http://www.la.us.emb-japan.go.jp/e_web/e_news_24.htm)

Helen Michiyo Nakano (70 yrs old)
Vice President of the International Naginata Federation
Awarded The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette

Ms. Helen Michiyo Nakano was born in Seattle, Washington. When she was eleven years old, Ms. Nakano and her family moved to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Manual Arts High School and attended El Camino College in Torrance.

Ms. Nakano has contributed to international goodwill, and Japan-U.S. goodwill in particular, through the dissemination of naginata (long-handled sword), an ancient martial art of Japan.

With her efforts as a member of the formation commemoration committee, the International naginata Federation was established in 1990 in Japan. She has been vice president of the Federation since 2002. As a principle exponent of naginata in the United States, she was instrumental in introducing and spreading naginata to the global community. Throughout the years, she ensured that the Federation emphasized the training and guidance of younger generations, taking every opportunity through various international activities to promote the educational development of younger people in naginata. Through activities such as these, she greatly contributed to the promotion of international goodwill.

As co-founder of the United States Naginata Federation, Ms. Nakano has poured her energy into teaching naginata throughout the country and was instrumental in developing the Southern California Naginata Federation in 1974. She has served as president of the United States Naginata Federation and president of the Southern California Naginata Federation.

In the U.S., Ms. Nakano helped establish naginata dojos (practice halls) in Nebraska, Florida, and Arizona, where she stressed the training of the younger members. At these dojos, she, herself participates in training students. As one of naginata’s early pioneers in America, she consistently promoted naginata through friendly sports exchanges with Japan. She has been teaching naginata at El Camino College since 1998. It is the only college accredited naginata class in the U.S.

Ms. Nakano is an active member of many organizations, serving as the first female president of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute in 1990 and continuing to serve on its board of directors. Through social and cultural activities, she selflessly promotes friendship between Japan and the U.S. through naginata. The Japanese American community holds Ms. Nakano in high esteem, not only for her contributions to society, but also for her gentle personality.

Nakano Sensei was among the first to introduce the art of naginata to North America, and is currently teaching in Torrance (Atarashii Naginata) and Gardena (Tendo-ryu Naginatajutsu).

In 1966 she was first introduced to the art of Naginata in Japan by senior instructors Tokunaga Chiyoko, Yamao Yoko, and Wada Sachiko. Upon her return to the US, she began Naginata training in the USA under the guidance of famed kendo instructor Mori Torao Sensei in Southern California at the Seinan Dojo and West L.A. Dojo.

On May 8th, 2004, Nakano Sensei became the first American to be awarded a "Kyoshi" (a senior instructor's license) by the All Japan Naginata Federation, and is still one of only a handful of senior ranked instructors outside of Japan in the art.

In addition to being highly skilled, she is also a rare example of humility and dignity.

Please join me in congratulating Nakano Sensei on such a noteworthy achievement, and in thanking her for pioneering the art internationally for the last 43 years!


Nathan Scott
Executive Secretary
Southern California Naginata Federation (http://www.scnf.org)

Prince Loeffler
26th June 2009, 20:12
This is awesome and well deserved recognition ! Congratulation to Nakano Sensei !

Joseph Svinth
26th June 2009, 22:18
Nathan --

It is probably more historically accurate (if less politically correct) to state that she pioneered Atarashii Naginata (New Naginata) in the USA. I have seen photos from the 1910s and 1920s showing Issei kendoka with naginata, and from the mid-1930s until Pearl Harbor, the California-based Hokubei Butokukai included naginata in its syllabus. I am not sure if the styles taught in the USA from 1936-1941 were Tendo-ryu or Jikishinkage-ryu, but my guess is that they included both.

In the FWIW department, New Naginata dates to the mid-to-late 1950s. In 1955, the All Japan Naginata Federation was established, and in 1959, it got the Ministry of Eductation to agree to allow naginata to be taught in the Japanese public schools provided that there was a clear break between New Naginata and the ram-your-spear-into-the-testicles type stuff taught in Japanese junior high schools between 1936 and 1945. Thus, new kata, rules, names (New Naginata is written using hiragana rather than kanji), and so on were developed. The current kata series dates to 1977 or thereabouts.

27th June 2009, 03:07
Please join me in congratulating Nakano Sensei on such a noteworthy achievement, and in thanking her for pioneering the art internationally for the last 43 years!

Congratulations! Nakano-sensei is a really neat person, and I'm thrilled to see her earn this recognition.

Steve Delaney
27th June 2009, 03:16
I remember her from the budai seminars a few years ago. We all sat together and had a nice drink after the lectures and keiko. She's a lovely lady.

28th June 2009, 14:31

Nathan Scott
29th June 2009, 02:20
Thanks guys.

Here is a photograph of Nakano Sensei from 1975 at the AJNF 20th Senshuken Taikai (positioned center):


Daniel Sullivan
14th July 2009, 15:25
Congrats to Nakano Sensei!! The award is very well deserved!