Madame Fujima Kansuma was born Sumako Hamaguchi in San Francisco, California. At the age of nine, she began to study kabuki in Los Angeles and attended exchange programs in Hawai`i. Instead of returning to Los Angeles, she moved to Japan to learn kabuki from the legendary master, Onoe Kikugoro VI. Later master Kikugoro introduced Madame Kansuma to his teacher, Fujima Kanjuro from whom she learned the basic Fujima style. She learned not only Japanese dance but also learned how to play the shamisen, tsuzumi, acting, and make-up. Madame Kansuma earned her natori (master’s licence with stage name), Fujima Kansuma, in 1938. She then returned to the United States and opened a dance studio at the Los Angeles hotel owned by her father.
During World War II, Madame Kansuma and her family were incarcerated at Rohwer, Arkansas. After some time, the government authorities allowed Madame Kansuma to travel to other camps to perform and teach Japanese dance. After the war, she returned to Los Angeles and resumed teaching and performances. Throughout her career, Madame Kansuma has taught more than 2,000 students. Forty-three of her students have achieved natori status.
In 1985, the Government of Japan awarded Madame Kansuma the Order of the Precious Crown, Apricot. The National Endowment also deemed her a National Heritage Fellow for the Arts in 1987. In 2004, she was given the Japanese American National Museum’s Cultural Ambassador Award. (November 30, 2004)