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Tap Dancer: The World of Tokio Hayashi

Tap Dancer | The World of Tokio Hayashi
Masahisa Segawa

This little book was given to me by its author, Mr. Masahisa Segawa. When translated into English, the title is Tap Dancer: The World of Tokio Hayashi. It opens an important window into the history of tap dancing in Japan.

The book documents the life of Tokio Hayashi, one of the first jazz and tap dancers to become well known to Japanese in the pre-war years, a time of great cultural change in Japan . While recounting Hayashi's story, author Segawa weaves in a number of other anecdotal stories from and about many of the famous entertainers of that period, including George Hori, the first major tap dance teacher in Japan, Ishizo Shirahata, another great dancer of the time and Fumiko Kawabata, a famous jazz singer in Japan during the 1930's.

Tokio Hayashi

Tokio Hayashi's real name was Keijiro Suzuki. He was born April 10, 1906 to a well to do family in Tokyo . He took up social dancing as an exercise program to battle weakness and ill health as a child. In his 20's he studied tap dancing with George Hori, and eventually opened his own studio. In 1933 Hayashi appeared in the movie Hohoo yo Sureba which might be loosely translated into “Cheek to Cheek”. Hayashi danced a specialty number in what must be the first tap number in any Japanese film. Hayashi teamed with Fumiko Kawabata, a famous Japanese jazz singer at the time and toured all over Japan. He also performed with a well-known act at that time called the Carnation Sisters. In 1939, despite his rising fame, Hayashi left professional entertainment and returned to his family business. His was a short but important contribution to tap dancing in Japan. Along with George Hori, the real “godfather” and Saburo Nakagawa, Hayashi helped to introduce Tap dancing to the Japanese.

Hayashi rehearsing, 1930's

I first learned about Tokio Hayashi from a souvenir program for Japan 's first National Tap Day. This program included a list of early Tap dancers in Japan. The list was complied by Mr. Segawa. Later, I purchased a box set of 7 LP's of reissued Japanese Jazz recordings from the early 1930's. One of the tracks was Bye Bye Blues performed by the Columbia Nakano Rhythm Boys, recorded in 1935 with tap sounds by Tokio Hayashi. Naturally, I love any recording that includes tap sounds. In fact, I have performed on such a recording myself. At the time I didn't know the name Tokio Hayashi however, and though I asked my dancing friends, no one had much information to offer. For a while, it was a mystery for me. Then, one day, while working on the preparations for another National Tap Day celebration, Mr. Segawa gave me this copy of his book.

Tokio Hayashi | The Carnation Sisters
Tokio Hayashi and the Carnation Sisters
  The Carnation Sisters
The Carnation Sisters

Masahisa Segawa has been a highly regarded critic of both jazz and musical stage productions in Japan for over 60 years. He has written several books about jazz and has served as the chief editor of the magazine Musical a monthly magazine about stage musicals. Mr. Segawa had conducted many interviews with various Japanese jazz, tap and other musical performers over the years. He had interviewed Tokio Hayashi in 1976 and it seems that these interviews were compiled into this book more or less at the request of Hayashi himself. The book received only a very limited publication, so it has become quite rare as time goes by. It is quite difficult to learn much about the lives of those few tap dancers active before the War. Mr. Segawa's research makes a huge contribution. It is wonderful to be able to read about these early Japanese show business pioneers.

George Hori
George Hori
Japanese Tap Dance Celebrities, 1930's
A gathering of Tap Celebrities in Tokyo, 1930's

— Shinichi Matsumoto