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John Muir Middle School unofficially sets world record for largest Japanese fan dance

John Muir Middle School unofficially set the world record Thursday for the largest Japanese fan dance — with 1,392 students and faculty participating — to conclude its fifth annual Japan Day festivities.

Photographs and video documenting the event are being sent to Guinness World Records to hopefully receive a certificate of the accomplishment, though it may take months to receive official approval, said Ted DeVirgilis, English teacher and organizer of the event.

If officially recognized by the Guinness, he said Muir Middle School would replace the record set by 250 people participating in a Japanese fan dance.

In the center of the campus’ field were multiple taiko drums and a traditional yagura tower. On the blacktop were tables showcasing a plethora of Japanese fans and 1,500 hachimaki — headbands — made by Muir students.


Shortly after a calligraphy class and interactive lesson on anime, hundreds of students — including 11 Japanese students visiting the Burbank campus as part of the Rebun International Exchange Program — flooded onto the school’s lower field in preparation for the fan dance.

Soon after finalizing details, music streamed through speakers and the students and faculty began the Shin Hokkai Bon Uta dance taught by Christine Inouye, a dance instructor and choreographer who teaches at local community centers.

Prior to the event, the fan dancers rehearsed the choreography for two weeks. They practiced every day for 15 minutes during their physical education classes, said Greg Miller, the school’s principal.


For five minutes and 55 seconds, 50 independent stewards watched the dancers, making sure everyone moved in unison and kept dancing the entire time.Among them was Gankyo Nakamura, the first non-Japanese citizen accepted in Kabuki theater in Japan. This form of drama includes stylized dance, elaborate costumes and intricate makeup.

Muir Middle School students, teachers and community members attempted to set the Guinness World Reco
Muir Middle School students, teachers and community members attempted to set the Guinness World Record for the largest Japanese fan dance with 1,400 people, at the school in Burbank on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

Unlike past years, where only a limited number of students could participate in events such as tea ceremonies and sushi-making classes because of financial costs, DeVirgilis said he wanted the entire student body to be involved in one activity to “feel a new culture” through song and dance.

“This is the first time I’m seeing something like this. It’s remarkable,” Nakamura said. “It’s not only about moving the body, it’s about discipline.”

For sixth-grader Zachary Garland, 11, who recently moved to California from New York, the event marked the highlight of his time in his new home.

“If this big and special stuff only happens in California, then I’m happy. This was fun to do,” he said.

Twitter: @vegapriscella