Looking at Kagurazaka from Shinnai Alley (13)
Shinnai Overseas Performance Tours 4: (South America)
Shinnai Activities in Ecuador
People associate Ecuador with the Galapagos Islands, which are famous as the natural habitat of a unique type of iguana. We flew to Guayaquil, which is the largest city in Ecuador. Guayaquil, a seaport, is the base for cruises to the Galapagos Islands. In front of our hotel, there was an iguana park, where many iguanas were living freely, that is, not in cages. Iguanas have reptilian faces and look scary, but they are gentle and don’t move much. They held still even when we petted them. The women in our group touched the iguanas and said, “Iguanas are cute!” I was puzzled by what they said. What’s so cute about iguanas?
A local man whose company does business with Japan invited us to a meal of local food. Because I don’t remember what I ate, maybe the food wasn’t particularly delicious.
We put on one performance in Guayaquil. We went by bus from the hustle and bustle of the center of the city to a quiet area where the theater was located. Because the theater was a little far from the city and light rain was falling, we were concerned as to whether many people would come to the performance. However, here, again, the theater was full. That may be because the opportunity to see Japanese performers is unusual there, and, in addition, there are many Ecuadorians who are of Japanese descent.
Yaji-Kita was well received, with continual loud laughter from the audience.
I felt that Japan, too, should invite foreigners to perform in their own languages, such as English and Spanish.
From the port city of Guayaquil, we flew to Quito, which is 2900 meters above sea level. On the plane, there was an announcement warning the passengers to be careful to avoid altitude sickness. They advised that, while in Quito, people shouldn’t eat or drink in excess, and shouldn’t move too quickly. Almost all of us followed this advice. In order to get used to the high altitude, we took a cable car to a place that was 4,000 meters above sea level. As expected, we felt dizzy there, and right away we went down to a place that was 3,000 meters above sea level. There, we felt fine. An oxygen cylinder had been provided for me in my hotel room, and there was also one backstage. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of our hosts, but fortunately, I didn’t have to use it even once.
Security in Quito was poor, and there had been acts of terrorism, so whenever we went out, the Embassy provided an official car for us, and I was always accompanied by a guard who carried a gun.
Ambassador Maekawa, the Ambassador of Japan to Ecuador, had lodged in the 6-chome area of Kagurazaka when he was a university student. His landlord, Nodera-san, ran Funabashiya, a shop selling Japanese traditional confections (now no longer in business). The Ambassador was pleased to learn that I knew Nodera-san very well, because my home was near the shop. We had a good time chatting together.
The theater, which was in the old part of Quito, was rather large and gorgeous. There was a long line of people waiting to get in. We had a full house. Here, too, I was happy to find that Yaji-Kita in Spanish was well received. In this performance, I delivered 80% of the spoken lines in Spanish. In the green room after the performance, we were asked many questions, just as we are everywhere in the world.
After that, we went to the last stop on this tour, Bogota, Colombia. Colombia is renowned as a country of narcotics and beautiful women.
Ambassador Terasawa, the Ambassador of Japan to Colombia, is the former boss of one of my close friends. Because my friend had informed the Ambassador about my visit to Colombia, I was given a warm welcome. On my first day off there, we played golf. His car had bulletproof glass. The golf course was also heavily guarded. Ambassador Terasawa kindly said, “Please come back to Colombia during my tenure here.” But that would be impossible. It takes more than 30 hours to get to Colombia from Japan.
People say that music is universal, but I wonder if that’s so. Shinnai joururi, especially, as an art of spoken lines and narrative lyrics, is somewhat different from ordinary music. It’s essential that the content of the stories is put across to the audience in a way that they can understand. This time, in three countries, because I did the spoken lines in the local language, our performances were successful.
I was impressed that, in all three countries, although we saw many poor people and many beggars, everyone seemed to be cheerful and to be enjoying their life. This performance tour of South America made me think again about what happiness is in people’s lives.
Starting in the next issue, I’ll write about my experiences in America.
(From Kagurazaka Community Magazine, April 2015-May 2015 issue, issue #79)