Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 2 Nov 12, 2011

This was the big day, the day of presentation for the Japanese government grant that Mistue wrote to bring me to Tokyo. Mitsue went off early to get ready.  I was felling a bit better prepared for my 2nd talk to teachers of English and education students.  Bruce and I  traveled together as he had a free day and Mitsue's students met us at her office where I made final adjustments to a program for people who operated in English on a wide variety of levels.

I was very worried that I would get excited and talk too fast. Before the talk I needed to use the bathroom so I hurried down the hall and walked into...a traditional bathroom in the floor. I jumped back and rushed out thinking I had gone into a men's room by mistake. Checking the sign I realized that I had not. The day before when I used that room I had used a stall with a Western style toilet. Culture shock was settling in and my gaffe made me laugh.  Finally the presentation.  My talk seemed to go well at least the teachers laughed at the funny places so I knew we were, at some points at least,  on the same wavelength.

Aoyama Lecture Hall - from  Sasaki,Yuta's blog
The most astounding thing happened during the break.  Mitsue was very eager to introduce me to a young man,  who turned out to be none other than Sasaki-san, the kamishibai guy! He had read the emails we sent the night before at 8 AM and there he was at 10:30AM - come all the way from Kuni-tachi ( a fairly distant part of Tokyo).  I invited him to perform as a slam-dunk finish to the nearly 90+ minute program and he "brought down the house" with his 3 minute story.  Just the day before, two Japanese grad students had told me after hearing me tell stories that I was "lucky to speak English" because there "was no Japanese storytelling".  These students looked very unconvinced when I tried to tell them storytelling exists everywhere and must be alive and well in Japan, too. Sasaki-san and his mother and I had lunch together in Mitsue's office along with Bruce who acted as a translator. We talked for hours ! How lucky we were to have such a devoted translator. It seems the Japanese government has forbidden street performance and this, along with TV, has nearly killed the art form in Japan. Sasaki-san is determined to bring it back!

Sasaki-san performs kamishibai w/iPad
It turns out that years ago, Bruce had told me about Sasaki-san's sensei. Sasaki,Yuta began studying the art of kamishibai in 2006 under the late Masao Morishita, who performed in Tokyo to great acclaim for more than 50 years before his death in 2008.  Years after Bruce told me the story,  I had often repeated to other performers, the moving story of a man who had lost his voice but had recorded his stories so he could continue to perform. Sasaki, is the only '"deshi" ( student/apprentice who trains under and assists a sensei on a committed basis) this master left behind. Sasaki-san showed me one of  Morishita sensei's kamishibai paintings. He has inherited his master's wooden theater and cards and uses them in the tradintional manner in his neighborhood. only there may he practice the art in its natural habitat - the street. I felt so honored but even more, it felt magical somehow, to meet Sasaki and his mother.  We know that we share the same passion for the art of storytelling. Now I feel that somehow I need to take his story and his storytelling, to the US.

Bruce had said that jet lag would hit me around 4PM but around 3 PM I started to have uncontrollable yawns and my eyes started to droop. With deep regrets and promises to see how I could to help promote kamishibai, I said goodbye to Sasaki-san and his mother. We took the train home and I crashed. Poor Mitsue had another full afternoon of presentation to sit through. But when we were reunited we reflected and marveled over the serendipity of the day, as we ate delicious sukiyaki that Mitsue made for us.

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